Students froze while walking, tying shoes and checking cell phones this afternoon in an effort to spread awareness about worldwide human trafficking.

Students Stopping the Trafficking of People (SSTOP) sponsored the demonstration in honor of National Human Trafficking Awareness Day on Jan. 11 and President Obama's proclamation of this month as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, every two minutes a child is trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation in the U.S.

"We did a freeze event, kind of like a flash mob, in order to bring awareness and to have people stop and visit us," said Mary Hampton Elam, chapter president of SSTOP.

Around 20 students stopped in the forum walkway beginning at 1:20 p.m., and remained frozen for three minutes.

"I thought it was kind of fitting that we would just stop in order to symbolize stopping the traffic in the way that people's lives are stopped by traffic," Elam said. "Then, to take a couple of minutes out of the day to help people understand that you know, there are 27 million people enslaved in the world."

Junior participant Amber Roudette said, "I thought it was a unique way to spread a message without saying anything." Roudette and others said they had read about the demonstration on Facebook and through a SpiderByte advertisement via email.

Junior Cheyenne Varner has been involved with SSTOP since her freshman year. "My friend Addie Rauschert was revising the club," she said, "which had kind of lost following on campus because the people who had created it had gone abroad. So, I got involved through her and I was doing publicity with them. I've continued to try to support their events, even though I haven't been as active in the past."

Varner spoke that afternoon on the campus radio station 90.1 FM about human trafficking.

"When I came here I thought I was going to teach in a classroom," she said. "When I learned about this issue, knowing how people didn't know about it, I felt like I could do something different and continue to teach people about what isn't being taught in the public schools."

International efforts have tried to eliminate human trafficking, according to a 2007 report by the International Labor Office. The industry profits over $32 billion, according to the report.

Contact staff writer Keon Monroe at keon.monroe@richmond.edu

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