By Madison Underwood
When we think about human trafficking – if we think about human trafficking – we usually think about it in the way it’s portrayed in films like “Taken”: something that happens in other countries, perhaps in Europe, and not in America. Something that involves a forceful kidnapping.
But it does happen here, and kidnapping is not always the method that traffickers use to capture their women, according to Sonya Hornsby, an event director for Freedom Night: Abolishing Exploitation and Modern Day Slavery. The event – a concert Friday in Railroad Park headlined by alternative rock band Sister Hazel – intends to raise awareness of trafficking and funds for area organizations that work with women brought into the sex trade.
“What they actually do is they use very manipulative mindgames,” Hornsby told AL.com, referring to traffickers. “The average age of entry for girls into sex trafficking is 12. As 12-year-olds – and, I’m just being honest, even when we’re 16 or 17 years old – we are not capable of being able to combat those things.”
According to Freedom Night, there are an estimated one million children involved in the global sex trade, and 100,000 of them are Americans. And I-20, which runs from Texas to South Carolina and through Birmingham, is a major trafficking corridor, with more than 15,000 women and children being funneled through this area every year.
The Freedom Night party – which, aside from Sister Hazel, also features Steve Moakler, Nicole McLean, Katie Acker, a silent auction, and food trucks – is meant to educate participants about human trafficking and how it works, but also to be fun and offer hope.
“I think sometimes when people hear the numbers, it’s really easy to kind of get paralyzed by those, or get kind of numb,” Hornsby said.
Hornsby hopes that the event will let people know there is something they can do to stop trafficking and help people involved.
The local organizations benefiting from Freedom Night will have booths explaining what they do, and offering practical volunteer opportunities and education about how to recognize trafficking when it happens in our communities.
“I think for us, if just one person comes away knowing that this actually happens, and knowing that just by them talking about makes a huge difference, I think that’s all the difference in the world,” Hornsby said.
FreeSet USA, one of the four local organizations addressing the sex trade, offers alternative employment to women in Kolkata, India, that are in the sex trade, but it is operated from Birmingham. The WellHouse, also based in Birmingham, offers shelter and a way out for women involved in the Southeastern U.S. sex trade. She Dances, which was founded by a Birmingham couple, helps women in Honduras by offering a long-term home and other opportunities. Make Way Partners is also a Birmingham-based organization that aids women internationally.
The event will also benefit Morality in Media, a national organization which will use money raised to put up billboards raising awareness of trafficking on America’s highways.
“We really want to celebrate these organizations, celebrate these stories, and really let it be an event of hope.”
Read more about Freedom Night, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday in Railroad Park, at the event’s website. Tickets for the event – available for $20 in advance – are available here.