Alyssa Kear is the Executive Director and co-founder of The JMAK. She specializes in childhood education and writes primarily about spiritual life and productivity with a focus on introspection and self-growth. She is a sophomore at Roberts Wesleyan College. Marianna Schrack is an advocate for eradicating modern day slavery. She is the President of the RWC Free organization focused on educating, equipping and assisting our community in the fight against modern day slavery.
“Although anyone can be trafficked, there are people who are more likely to be trafficked than others, and those are the people who are of high vulnerability — that is in high-poverty places, individuals with less education, minorities.”
I had the pleasure of having an open and honest conversation with Marianna Schrack, a friend to many and an advocate of all. Hear what she has to say about human trafficking, its implications, why Christians should care, and how to practically get involved.
Alyssa- What led you to be passionate about human trafficking and how did you get interested in this?
Marianna- So the first time I heard anything about modern-day slavery, in general, was when I was about 12 years old. I had a youth leader who was really passionate about fair trade products, which is pretty much products that are ethically made and they are ensured that they are helping the community they are made in (people are not enslaved or being forced or coerced into working); so, that’s how I first heard about it. I am a very justice-oriented person, so after I heard about it I was just so frustrated and mad that it existed. So from the age of 12 and all throughout high school, I did research project after research project and I would definitely say my high school teachers were pretty annoyed with me!
Alyssa- What kinds of research have you done about this?
Marianna- In high school, I was very passionate about the mix of trafficking and the pornography industry and how those correlated. So, trafficking can look like labor trafficking or it could also be sex trafficking, which could be forced prostitution, but this also could be forced pornography. A lot of people sometimes think that it is just a gun being held to their head or things like that, but it is also through coercion or needs-based. Maybe not having a house, and then they are living with this person and this person tricks them into thinking they love them, or in essence coercing them into doing something because they don’t have money or taking their passport, depending on the situation. And so I’ve really looked into the pornography business because I really think that is something that not talked about in our world but is used by most people, especially as much as we don’t want to admit that, even in the church. And so, I really wanted to look at those underlying things because a lot of people don’t think pornography is harmful because it is individual-based, but when we are consuming stuff like that, it is also impacting the people who are forced to film themselves.
Alyssa- Some people might look at a problem like human trafficking and think “there is nothing I can do, ever, to help stop this.” Are there practical ways that people can help end human trafficking?
Marianna- I think the number one most practical way is simply being aware of it. That’s like any issue. If we just take the intentionality to become aware of the problems in our world, we can slowly chip away at them. I think personally one of the best ways for us to become aware is the organizations that are starting awareness campaigns. One of my favorites is A21 and they have a campaign called “Can You See Me?” and it literally has videos of how trafficking happens. So if we are able to name it, we are able to identify it and end it. So like, all of us have [had] teachers and been in classrooms. There are signs that you can tell. If you, a student, who used to have high grades and they start dropping, teachers should be aware that “hmmm.. There’s something going on in their life” and trafficking could be happening. I think a lot of the time we don’t want to admit that maybe it’s just family problems or boyfriend problems, but there’s a lot more that goes on behind people’s lives. Especially right now with COVID, there are so many people online. Predators are at an all-time high due to the fact that we know kids are online and we know children have to use the internet. So we know it is very easy for traffickers or even predators, in general, to access children and young women through the Internet.
Alyssa- Are there any other organizations you would recommend to follow or support that help to end human trafficking?
Marianna- Yes, the Set Free movement is actually who the club that I am the president of on-campus is partnered with, and that is a Free Methodist organization. I went on a mission trip to Bulgaria with them, and they promote advocating for victims of human trafficking and they have missionaries all around the world that [are] working with communities that have a risk with trafficking. There is also Exodus Cry which is one of my personal favorites. They do a lot with the pornography business and they have advocated a ton against PornHub. There are a lot of organizations like Compassion International that we use that sponsors children. I think a lot of Christians have heard of sponsoring kids before, but I think that is one way that we, very individually, can help. People don’t have the same opportunities as us. Although anyone can be trafficked, there are people who are more likely to be trafficked than others, and those are the people who are of high vulnerability — that is in high-poverty places, individuals with less education, minorities. We have the opportunities in other nations, as Americans, to use our wealth to sponsor children [so] the people in their own communities can use the money and raise them up so there is not a white savior complex with that. Generally, [we want] just the people in their communities helping them. Then, there are also opportunities for us in the U.S. to work with organizations here. Safe Harbor is one that is an anti-trafficking place. The Potter’s Hands is an organization that the honors program here in Roberts has worked with as well that has a safe home and other advocacy and awareness.
Marianna- It’s also super important to know the Human Trafficking Hotline number! Everyone should have that on their phone. It is 1-888-373-7888. When you are able to know the statistics and know the facts, you can report it. Period. A lot of the time, people are like “Oh, I don’t want to be wrong.” I’d rather have you be wrong than not report it. Also, you can post stuff on social media! A lot of those organizations I listed post stuff that we are able to repost. So just bringing our own awareness to our own platforms is really important.
Alyssa- How can people who are passionate about this get involved on campus?
Marianna- You can come to FREE meetings! That is a club that is on campus, it’s Christians against human trafficking. We meet biweekly. So, right now we are meeting Wednesdays 5-6 in Ellen Stowe. This semester, we have some fun things planned. Specifically, three topics we want to talk about on campus are the effects of COVID on human trafficking. And we’ve never done a session where we talk about pornography, and I think that has gotten a lot of recent attention in the news. So we want to do a meeting about pornography and trafficking and the connection. I am doing independent research for the second honors program on the intersectionality between race and trafficking [because] that is something that is not well researched. So we are going to be talking about that one night at FREE. For activities, we are hoping to do the “in your backyard” sticker search where we actually go put up the modern-day slavery and human trafficking awareness phone number in bathrooms and restaurants and stuff so that can get out there and known.
Marianna Schrack: firstname.lastname@example.org to contact for more info