The Ballard Center for Social Impact kicked off 2021 with a month dedicated to spreading awareness of human trafficking and shared resources students can use to educate themselves on the issue.
The center helps students get involved with social problems and focuses on a different issue each month. In January, it is providing educational resources on human trafficking by showing two documentaries in the Peery Film Series and referring followers to a novel on the subject.
“A big reason (human trafficking) is happening is because it goes unnoticed,” Braden Kerr said. Kerr, an experience design and management student, helps manage the Ballard Center’s events and film series.
The Ballard Center will show two films this month: “I Am Jane Doe” and “The True Cost.” Students can watch them for free through the Peery Film Series website until Jan. 30, and the Ballard Center will donate two dollars to Truckers Against Trafficking for every viewing.
“The True Cost” exposes the fashion industry’s exploitation of low-wage workers. “I Am Jane Doe” describes the legal battle between mothers whose daughters were trafficked for commercial sex and Backpage.com, the website that enabled it to happen.
“It just blew my mind to see how big of a problem it is, and how unnoticed it goes, and how untouchable the perpetrators are,” Kerr said of “I Am Jane Doe.” He said sex trafficking is something a lot of people still need to know about in order to do something about the problem.
He described “The True Cost” as a huge eye-opener. “We look at cheap clothing as an advancement,” he said. “But in reality, somebody is taking the hit for it.”
Kerr said everybody could benefit from watching the films because both help raise awareness of overlooked issues.
The Ballard Center also highlighted “My Book of Life by Angel” by Martine Leavitt, a verse novel telling the story of a young girl who is being sex trafficked.
“This isn’t ‘Pretty Woman,’” said Assistant to the Dean of Students Michelle Forstrom. “This is a victim of malicious, evil behavior.”
She said the book removes the stigma surrounding prostitution and she hopes it brings up a good conversation and moves people to want to help.
Elaine Pfeil, a junior studying public relations, works as the Ballard Center’s social media specialist and chose to highlight the book after reading it for a class last semester. She said it helped change her perspective of prostitution.
“Growing up, the image of prostitutes was so negative,” she said. “Now, I’m learning that so many people in that lifestyle are victims, and they don’t want to be there, and they are fighting for their lives every day.”
The book is available at the BYU library. Students who want to get involved with combating human trafficking can join the Ballard Center newsletter and check out its Aug. 6 Instagram post on the issue, Pfeil said.
Kerr said students can also set up an advisement appointment with the Ballard Center, where an advisor will help direct them towards different programs that best suit their interests and passions concerning social justice.
Forstrom suggested students find what they are passionate about (for her, it’s refugees) and do what they can, even if it’s not much during this busy time of life. They can always expand later. “If right now the main thing somebody can do to help is educate themselves, then they’re doing something,” she said.
The Ballard Center also held a human trafficking awareness day and a deliberative dialogue workshop earlier this month. Interested students can follow its social media pages to get involved with future events.