The Human Trafficking Epidemic
"Human Trafficking" is defined as the exploitation of a person through force, fraud or coercion of labor or commercial sex. While it is most often associated with commercial sex, trafficking can take many forms, including child labor, domestic servitude and migrant working.
The trade in human flesh, both for labor and for pleasure, is not a new phenomenon. In most ancient cultures, slaves were taken from the losing side in war. From the Renaissance up to the middle of the 20th century, nations with superior technology enslaved entire populations, sometimes shipping them across the Atlantic to build the 'New World' for men and women whose languages they did not know, and whose cultures they did not understand.
Displaced. Moved from one end of the earth to the other.
Slavery is always about more than just the subjugation of the human will; it is about displacement, ripping a person from the arms of their loved ones, from the languages that they understand, from the environment that they recognize implicitly, and bringing them to a place where there is nothing.
No resistance, no identity, no hope.
There is no difference between human trafficking and slavery. Human trafficking is slavery with a modern-day sheen. Yet unlike slavery in the past, human trafficking goes unnoticed. Using sophisticated techniques designed to displace and weaken vulnerable people, traffickers conduct their business in hiding. No longer are labor camps found off of open roads; now they hide under great swaths of trees in rural Michigan. No longer are brothels run as open businesses, but they continue their trade from the back of vans, and in their client’s own homes.
ADAPT. Theatre Company has set our sights on the issue of human trafficking, specifically sex trafficking, for our piece in the 2016 ArtPrize Festival because of its invisibility. As our city grows, so does the clientele for sex trafficking, and the number of vulnerable people coerced or forced into the “trade”. During ArtPrize itself, the number of trafficking cases explodes exponentially. This is the underbelly of Grand Rapids' economic influx, the dark price that we pay, often without our own knowledge, to elevate our city while others suffer.
Stories in Blue is a pilgrimage that seeks truth. Through it, we uncover these invisible atrocities on the streets of the city to raise awareness and enliven discussion. We seek to bring healing to those who have suffered in silence, reminding them that they are not alone. We tread the paths of our city to hasten the day when our most vulnerable people no longer fear being buried in darkness.