Students stood with painted signs advocating awareness about sex trafficking and modern-day slavery at Risman Plaza Wednesday, April 8.
In its second year, a campus chapter of the global organization called the International Justice Mission, or IJM, began its 24 hour event at noon, called “Stand for Freedom.”
IJM is an international human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other various forms of violent oppression which is based in Washington D.C.
This campus chapter was started during the spring of 2013 by a junior human development and family studies major named Janelle Nafziger and a few of her acquaintances.
The Kent State campus chapter of IJM was asking passing students to sign their petition called the “End Slavery Act” with a goal of surpassing 500 signatures to have it pass through the government.
Sophomore psychology and Human Development and Family Studies dual major Brianne Berkebile said that she noticed them holding their signs in the rain at the Risman Plaza and saw the petition.
“I think that they are passionate to stand out here in the rain while the wind is blowing. It shows a lot,” said Berkebile.
Co-Presidents Janelle Nafziger and AJ Ozanich along with other IJM members offered free coffee and donuts to these curious students and informed them about the statistics and facts of these cruel social injustices that exist in our world today.
Nafziger said she hopes that there will be more laws to end sex trafficking because there are not that many and that they are in the beginning stages.
She said that one of the main things that IMF as a whole organization and its Kent State University chapter focuses on is changing policy.
She said that if women, children, and men are not protected under the law, then they can be wrongfully incarcerated by officers and government officials simply because they are not educated about it and are unaware of their backstories.
“I think for people to know, in the state of Ohio as a whole, we can work together and change even Ohio laws because Ohio laws are still in the first stages of really changing and protecting women and children who are being abused in this way,” said Nafziger.
She said that in the past, the “Stand for Freedom” events were originally 27 hours to represent the 27 million victims in slavery, but they knocked it down to 24 hours because the number has increased.
Nafziger said as to why they are standing for one day based on a tag line by the organization itself.
“ ‘One day for the Everyday’ ”, said Nafziger. “So we are standing for one day for their everyday of being exploited, abused and being taken advantage of.”
She said that the campus chapter of IJM is directly involving themselves with organizations in Northeast Ohio that are rescuing women from sex trafficking such as the Imagine Foundation in Cleveland and Rahab Ministries in Akron.
Nafziger said that is a way to educate people about these issues through direct exposure.
She said that the Imagine Foundation works with a correctional facility in Cleveland to help men and women transition from incarceration and reentering the community.
Nafziger said that they have been volunteering with Imagine Foundation once a month.
She said that a lot of Kent State students from IJM have been volunteering with Rahab Ministries which is an organization that directly rescues women from sex trafficking and also provides mentorship to women in jail that have been involved in sex trafficking and prostitution.
“It is really easy, especially in America, to look past all of this and to not know and to be ignorant and to not understand what people are going through around the world,” said Nafziger. “I think just to educate people on what some people are living with 24 hours a day for their whole lives; what people are going through.”
Freshman computer science major Ryan Pasquino noticed some IJM members painting cardboard signs for the “Stand for Freedom” event in a floor lounge at Stopher-Johnson the night prior.
Pasquino said that he asked what they were doing and they told them about their cause.
“I didn’t realize that there was this many people still being sexually assaulted and sold in the world. I knew it was a problem, but not this big especially in Ohio,” said Pasquino. “I didn’t think it was still going on.”
Berkebile said that after she read the statistics at their information table, she also did not realize that sex trafficking was still real today.
“I think that it is a big deal that they are doing this on-campus is because this is generation is what is going to be next to take care of these kind of problems for the most part and so to expose them to that is a pretty big deal to me,” said Berkebile.”
Co-presidents Nafziger and Ozanich said that the IJM’s Director of College Mobilization visited their movement that afternoon from Washington D.C. and was making her way up to Penn State’s campus to see their “Stand for Freedom” movement as well.
“I want to devote my life basically through helping and caring for people on this earth; especially for people that are vulnerable and cannot take care of themselves,” said Nafziger. “So that is what I want to do and that is why we are still committed to this campus chapter.”
Contact Sabrina Scott at [email protected]