Photo by Center Avenue Imaging
iEmpathize’s last trip to Asia was spent gathering “artifacts” and film / photography media. The idea was to create an experiential art exhibit that told the basic story of child sex trafficking. Read what Professor Kirsten Wilson had to say about her experience…
The week before spring break, a couple of my students invited me to an event happening on the CU campus (University of Colorado), jointly sponsored by CU-SAMS (CU Students Against Modern Slavery) and iEmpathize, an organization that works to connect people and resources to issues of injustice (with a current focus on the issue of child sex trafficking).
The event at CU was an “Empathy Experience,” an interactive silent vigil/exhibit set up to connect people to the issue of child sex trafficking. As soon as I got the invitation, I felt a strong urge to attend, and made arrangements to do so. Here’s why:
I agree that child sex trafficking is one of the darkest, most horrific injustices in the world today. And I believe the issue must be brought out into the open and stopped–that WE NEED TO STOP IT.
Beyond that, as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I have tasted a slice of what it means to be wounded in that deep place of the heart. Thankfully, I have also tasted a slice of what it means to be rescued and to walk through (and keep walking through) healing in that arena. And as I grow more secure in that, I begin to feel a deepening burden for others who in some way have been sexually victimized, and a growing curiosity about what part God might want me to play in being a force for justice and compassion and healing in that dark, dark arena.
And beyond that, I felt an affinity with the idea that iEmpathize invites people into a multi-sensory, interactive experience that integrates art–and artifacts–with the statistics in a way that creates a personal connection with the children impacted by sex trafficking. I’m an artist and a communicator–I get that.
So, I attended the Empathy Experience. I joined others in silently walking the path through a room that brought us face to face with the reality of what is being done to so, so many innocent children.
I worked for ten years as part of a team that strived to communicate truth creatively, interactively, through various artistic media. With that background, I say this: the Empathy Experience was very well done. It professionally presented the reality of child sex trafficking in a way that was simple, artistic, and powerful. The displays were neither graphic nor offensive–by which I mean to say: the crimes are highly offensive, the display itself was not. The display was simple, straightforward, honest, which left the offense where it belongs–on the offenders. There was no preaching, no one talking during the experience. The only words were on little placards next to the artifacts, paragraphs to describe what I was looking at. Or simple statistics flashed on a screen. There was no one telling me what I ought to think or feel. There was merely(!) the gift of space and time provided for me to look at the reality of what is happening and to allow my heart to respond.
I do not know how other hearts responded to the Empathy Experience, but my heart was breaking at the things I saw. The photo you see with this entry is but one example. Here is a piece of what is printed on the placard:
“These sandals were found at the entrance of a brothel… 90% of the children in this neighborhood have been sold for sex at least once and the children victimized are as young as six years old…”
Photo by Aimée Hartecramer
Those sandals were made for feet smaller than those of my seven-year-old daughter. I somehow managed not to let my inward churning spill out into actual tears or sobs.
There are things in this world that ought to be cried about. Injustices in this world that ought to awaken in us a hot, hot anger at the injustice and a deep, deep burden for the victims…
I’m still, two weeks later, mulling over my experience… Empathy is one thing–a very, very good thing. But engaging is another, and I need to consider how to engage…
Photo by Center Avenue Imaging
Kirsten Wilson is a professor at Rivendell College in Boulder. To visit her blog and read this entry in its entirety visit:
TO HOST THE EMPATHY EXPERIENCE contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.