UCF art auction benefits survivors of human trafficking
Published: Sunday, February 24, 2013
Updated: Sunday, February 24, 2013 16:02
Imagine being Amanda, who was first trafficked for sex when she was 17 years old by working at strip clubs, brothels, massage parlors, Internet trafficking and streetwalking in Central Florida.
Perhaps you could have been Asia, whose boyfriend locked her in a hotel room and posted photos of her all over the Internet before carting her around for house calls.
Maybe you could have been Veronica, who was violently raped by her stepbrother after beginning her path of healing and recovery.
These women are three of an estimated 100,000 who enter the sex industry each year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, which is why the UCF College of Business and Career Connections sponsored an art auction to benefit a nonprofit that helps survivors of the sex-trafficking trade.
Florida is currently the third-largest hub for human trafficking in the United States, and in April 2011 the DOJ stated that human trafficking — a combination of labor, sex and organ trafficking — has become the No. 1 growing criminal enterprise in the world.
“It’s so illicit and so undercover and there are so many people involved in it,” said Jesse Maley, founder of Out of the Life, a Central Florida nonprofit organization that helps female domestic victims recover from the remnants of the sex industry.
“This is not an issue about religion. It isn’t an issue about political affiliation,” Maley said. “It doesn’t have a gender. It doesn’t have a race.”
Out of the Life recently held a three-day art benefit at the UCF Art Gallery, beginning Wednesday. During the event, 42 donated works of art were up for silent auction, including pieces made by survivors of human trafficking.
“Upon arriving at the gallery, I was instantly hit with a mix of admiration and sadness," sophomore radio/television major Shane Sackett said. “In each display you could see both the beauty and the pain felt by the creator.”
The auction raised $2,435 for the organization, which is enough to build and furnish another safe house for the survivors that Maley and her volunteers work with.
“We agreed to do the benefit to bring awareness to the growing problem of sex trafficking,” Diane Daugherty, the gallery coordinator, said. “We wanted to get financial support for the women in Out of the Life who are trying to get out of that industry and rebuild their lives.”
Kayla Hernandez, the permanent collections manager at the gallery, said she is overwhelmed by the giant community pool of support from faculty, staff and students at UCF’s School of Visual Art and Design in planning the benefit.
“As artists, our work is sometimes all we have. Sometimes we can’t give money because we are struggling, so we give our artwork that someone else wants, and that money can benefit somebody else. That came together very strongly for us. The artists are supporting the cause that the art gallery is supporting,” Hernandez said.
The DOJ reported that 89 percent of women involved in prostitution said they would get out if they had access to housing, food, education, child care and career development. Out of the Life aims to provide survivors of the sex industry with these services, in addition to helping them regain their identity documents and guide these women toward recovery.
“Jesse’s organization is that support system. She’s that backbone,” Daugherty said. “She’s that safety net for these women.”
This is the very reason why Daugherty, Hernandez and the UCF art gallery agreed to put on the benefit.
“Some of these women don’t know anything else, and the organization opens their eyes to a different kind of world,” Hernandez said. “Jesse is helping them be self-sufficient, and I think that knowing someone helps them grow and move on from that struggle.”
Maley said the benefit will allow people to recognize human trafficking as a growing problem in the United States.
“We are selling human beings. We are selling dignity. We are selling the idea that a person owns their own body, and that’s the whole problem with it,” Maley said. “It’s the selling of humanity.
“This is about humanity and the restoration of our values and our morality.”