This week, a Free the Slaves college chapter held a candlelight vigil called “Hope Rising” to honor victims and survivors of human trafficking.
Students at Loyola University Chicago gathered in a circle on a snowy night outside the central hub of their campus.
As candles were passed around, Josh Koepp, a junior at the university and the event coordinator stressed the importance of spreading awareness on human trafficking.
Then, guest Kathy Bryan, a sex trafficking victim, shared her story. Kathy was 16 when she began to date a man in her neighborhood.
“All the things you’d want a boyfriend to do he was doing,” she said.
But after eight months her boyfriend deceived her.
Under threat of harming her sister, Kathy was trafficked for sex three to five nights a week. This continued for two years.
“I tell my story not for shock value.” she said, “but so that people know there’s not one person this cannot happen to—not one person. It’s not about sex. It’s about power, control and greed.”
As Kathy’s story came to a close, the candles around the circle were lit.
A moment of silence was taken in honor of human trafficking victims and survivors around the world.
Shamere McKenzie, a senior at Loyola University and a sex trafficking survivor herself, ended the ceremony with a compelling message.
The depth of human trafficking can be depressing and overwhelming, Shamere said, but there is hope and it is our job to spread it.