Wed. Jul 17th, 2019

Survivors share stories with STARR

By Kyla Thomas —

A campus human trafficking support group shared their newest 20-minute film developed by local survivors of child sex trafficking in the Chao Auditorium Feb. 20.

Due to the sensitivity of the event,  attendees who voiced their opinions asked to remain anonymous when speaking.

Angela Renfro, director of U of L’s human trafficking research initiative, said Project STARR provides a vital outlet to victims.

“Project STARR is a way for people being affected by human trafficking to channel all of their problems and demons into art and photography,” Renfro said.

The photovoice project was completely silent, displaying pictures the victims took. Art projects like these combine the power of photography with social action.

Each picture had a certain meaning to the survivor behind it. For instance, one survivor described how a picture of an abandoned Barbie doll reminded her of the feelings she felt being trafficked–being alone, dirty and used.

“We did not want to give away the identity of the victims. Along with that, we wanted their images and words to mean more than their looks or the way they spoke,” Renfro said.

Following the film, there was an open discussion.

In total, the film was 22 minutes long, which one survivor described as infuriating.

“That’s too long. Too many people are falling victim to this type of abuse, too many women are losing themselves to sex, drugs and violence by force,” they said.

The film included statistics found by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services in 2018. They include:

  • Since 2013, Kentucky has received 787 reported incidents of sex trafficking involving 949 alleged child victims.
  • The majority of the reports originate from the Louisville area.
  • More than 75 percent of the reports involved girls 13-years-old and up.
  • In 59 percent of the reports, a parent or caregiver was identified as the trafficker.

Graphic by Shayla Kerr / The Louisville Cardinal

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