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Friday, June 2, 2023

Activities & Organizations

‘Priceless’ movie night dispels human trafficking myths

Students had the opportunity to learn the signs and reality of human trafficking in Houston Thursday through the University of Houston’s on-campus anti-human trafficking organization’s movie night and panel discussion.

The Modern Abolitionist Coalition held a screening of the movie “Priceless,” followed by a panel discussion with local anti-human trafficking organizations in Agnes Arnold Auditorium 2 Thursday evening. “Priceless,” a fictional depiction of human trafficking, tells the story of two young women being trafficked from Mexico to the United States for sex work by an unsuspecting driver.

“We wanted to make [students] aware of different issues they didn’t know they needed to be aware of, and then find out and connect with those organizations in an easy-to-do way,” said Canyon Sanford, MAC director of public relations and outreach.

The following panel discussion hosted representatives from four Houston-area anti-human trafficking organizations: Joe Madison with Elijah Rising, Sheila Whittle with Free the Captives, Kendra Baldazo with United Against Human Trafficking and Jenn Ahart with Rescue Houston.

The four panelists took questions from the audience in an effort to clarify points from the movie and dismiss commonly held myths about human trafficking.

“I think this is a really great movie to raise awareness for people who don’t know that this happens,” said civil and environmental engineering senior Sujata Gautam, who attended the screening, “but I do think it shows people that it’s closer to home than you might think.”

One of the reasons “Priceless” was chosen over other movies about human trafficking, Sanford said, is because it depicts human trafficking in the United States and highlights many of the realities of the human trafficking industry. During the panel discussion, Ahart explained that the image most people have of human trafficking victims is incorrect.

“A lie we definitely want to dispel is that girls that are working in the industry are not separate, they’re very much intermingled,” Ahart said. “They’re shopping at Forever 21, they’re at Starbucks, they’re at the gas stations.”

Though human trafficking is commonly associated with prostitution, the panelists shared that not all human trafficking activity is related to the sex industry.

“Three donut shops in Houston have been accused of labor trafficking their staff, and one of (the shops) was a Shipley’s donuts,” Baldazo said. “A labor trafficking victim isn’t always kicking and screaming, trying to get out of their situation. It can look like someone making your coffee in the morning or someone selling you your donut.”

If someone sees or suspects human trafficking, panelists told the audience to call the Human Trafficking Hotline and not intervene.

After the discussion, attendees were invited to explore the opportunities to volunteer with these organizations and to attend the next MAC meeting.

“We want to spread awareness, and we knew after watching this movie that it would be a great way to introduce these ideas in a more realistic way than people maybe know,” Sanford said.

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