Ohio reported more than 400 cases of human trafficking in 2018. An exhibit opening at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center on Human Trafficking Awareness Day this Jan. 11 aims to bring awareness to the issue and spark people to take action.
Motel X is an interactive exhibit themed around the idea of a motel room where visitors can explore various aspects of human and sex trafficking, which often takes place in such locations.
"We're excited because it's talking about the I-75 corridor," says Gina Goings, vice president of institutional advancement. "Over 20 million people worldwide are still involved in slavery of some form and right here within that I-75 corridor we're talking thousands, and many that probably aren't even reported."
I-75, the museum points out, creates an easy pipeline for traffickers to move people through multiple states.
Local filmmaker Christine Shrum created the display to generate empathy and give people tools to help, as well as a platform for survivors to tell their stories.
"My hope is that this exhibition changes the way people think about human trafficking and encourages a new generation of modern day abolitionists," she says in a statement.
Here's how the museum describes the exhibit:
As they walk through the motel door, through the room, guests encounter the story of a teenage girl forced into sex slavery by human traffickers. Exiting the room and entering the bathroom, guests are introduced to an immigrant worker inadvertently caught up in trafficking humans. Throughout the exhibition clues reveal warning signs, statistics and actions that can help combat human trafficking. Interactive clues include audio tracks, dressers with items of clothing that reveal information when moved and a bedside Bible that, when opened, reveals stark facts about human trafficking. As guests exit the bathroom, they enter a gallery that will feature artwork from local survivors.
Goings says the exhibit is focused on reaching younger middle school and high school audiences "because those are typically the ones that are the victims of this horrendous thing that's happening."
The subject matter can be disturbing and uncomfortable but it's important to talk about and learn about, she says.
"We are a museum of conscience," she points out. "Just because we may not see it or it may not have touched us yet, it's happening and it's growing at really alarming rates."
Motel X runs Jan. 11 through April 5.