By Blake Dickinson, Contributor
People in Nebraska have been forced into human trafficking, which is just a sliver of a fraction of those affected worldwide. This is the message that the Price of Life campaign wanted to bring to campus last week as a part of a global awareness raising movement.
For the last few years, proponents of social justice have been traveling the country in an attempt to create discussion about the sex-slave trade that many don’t even know exists.
According to Lisa Ashton, assistant director of Price of Life Omaha, most people are unaware of the variety of factors contributing to the sale of young men and women around the country. She said that the goal of the organization is, “to ignite collaboration between different community partners.” The group recognizes that the issue is multifaceted and requires input from a variety of fields.
“This isn’t just a legal, financial, governmental or law enforcement issue,” said Ashton, “We need participation from a variety of areas to make change happen.”
The events held on and around the UNO campus last week were structured to appeal to this variety of audiences.
Interactive “Proxe Stations” were set up in front of Milo Bail Student Center and the Community Engagement Center and provided facts and details to anyone interested in learning more.These stations were also manned by volunteers from around the city.
“We were able to engage in more than 360 conversations with interested college students. That gets us really excited about the future,” said Ashton.
Also on campus were events focusing on the ability of creative media to effect change as well as speakers that discussed the threats of human trafficking in athletics. The latter event was opened up to UNO student athletes and featured speakers such as former Creighton basketball player Josh Dotzler and former NFL football player Todd Doxzon.
Current UNO baseball player, Isaac Holt, attended the event and said it was held, “to encourage us athletes to use our platform to fight against making women a sales product instead of people.”
The culminating activity of the week was a “Concert for a Cause” on Saturday, with artists Remedy Drive and Propaganda at Sokol Arena on Creighton University’s campus.
Omaha was the 15th stop in the United States for the Price of Life campaign. The next stop for the organization is the University of Michigan in October. After that, the first efforts at raising international awareness will be made in Rwanda, according to Ashton, where the demand for sex-slavery continues to grow.
Ashton is confident that the right steps are being taken to bring an end to sex slavery.
“This is a bigger monster to kill than just ending prostitution,” she said, “but we are actually seeing women get help.” The organization’s website gives accounts of women who have found their way out of slavery in Omaha.
If people are interested in learning more about the industry or about how to help raise awareness, Ashton said to go to priceoflifeomaha.com as well as polarisproject.org.
As far as taking action, Ashton said, “Report anything you see that’s suspicious and educate yourself on the signs. Be alert of your surroundings.” She also voiced the importance of donating time, money and resources, as well as contacting congressman to push anti-trafficking legislation.
She also stated the importance of reducing the demand for the trade by monitoring what is viewed on the internet.
“Viewing pornography feeds the sex industry. Avoid clicking on links that take you to these websites” said Ashton.
To report any suspicious activity, contact the human trafficking hotline at 1-888-3737-888.