COC art exhibit looks at human trafficking

A girls shoe that tells a story of human trafficking is on display at the public gallery in the College of the Canyons library. Cory Rubin/ The Signal

The newest interactive art exhibit at College of the Canyons shares the stories of women who have survived human trafficking, sexual exploitation, addictions and life on the streets.

To raise awareness about human trafficking and the connection between childhood sexual abuse and the sex industry, the on-campus library is hosting “A Walk In Her Shoes,” which opened Monday.

The exhibit includes 14 shoes that belong to survivors and headphones that allow visitors to listen to their three-minute stories. It was created by Kate Wedell, founder and executive director of Cherished, a nonprofit organization that aims to empower women survivors of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.

“Each shoe in this exhibit is a story of a survivor,” Wedell said. “These are victims of human trafficking (who) have suffered exploitation and trauma through various forms in the commercial sex industry.”

One of the 14 recordings in the exhibit shared the story of a woman who was involved in human trafficking from a young age after her abusive father held her and her mother at gunpoint.

“A few weeks before my fourth birthday, my mother and I escaped from my father by crossing the border with a trafficker. That was the first time I was molested,” the woman said before she continued to describe the gruesome realities of human trafficking, including being exposed to pornography at age 5.

“I have met many women, (who) like me, have such a history of untold past abuse and shame, and their stories are stories of strength, courage and redemption (that) also need to be told,” Wedell said. “I created ‘A Walk in Her Shoes’ as a tribute to these brave liberators who are helping others too and showing them the way to freedom.”

Rita Tso, club treasurer of My Generation My Fight, a on-campus club that spreads awareness on human trafficking, said the new exhibit is a good chance for students to learn more about the problems that plague survivors.

Tso joined members of the MyGenMyFight Club in the library on Tuesday to share flyers and facts about human trafficking and how to help.

“(The club) might not be able to stop human trafficking by ourselves, but the gallery shows this is a real issue that we need to do something about,” Tso said. “We should take this chance to educate the community on how to stop this from happening.”

The exhibit will be available to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and come to a close when the college’s conference, “It Happens Right Here: Human Trafficking and How to Make A Difference,” begins in September.

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