Empathy Week concludes with informational films, speaker

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Last night iEmpathize concluded its Empathy Week at K-State with a film presentation called “The Experience.” Jessica Paige began the evening, singing and playing guitar as attendees entered the event. “The Experience” started with iEngage representative, Mark Brende giving a personal account reiterating the theme of the week: everyone has hardships, and it is the responsibility of citizens of any community to empathize with each other.

“We live in an environment and society where we disconnect from other people’s suffering,” Brende said during his introduction.

The first film depicted the efforts of a Mexican politician who was fighting to end human trafficking in her country. She began her fight when she saw men soliciting young girls on the street one day. She quickly informed a nearby police officer, but the officer did nothing about it, explaining the advances were welcomed by the girls. Horrified, she ran for public office on the platform of eliminating human trafficking in Mexico. The film also featured a girl who, at 15-years old, was sold into the sex trade at volumes of sometimes thirty or more men a day.

The next film featured human traffiking in the United States. It gave accounts of survivors and featured several advocates of anti-trafficking legislature. The film took viewers on a tour of big cities in the U.S. Although only a few cities were featured, the film said that any city over 50,000 people likely has a human trafficking issue.

Both of iEmpathize’s films told heartbreaking tales of what is happening to children in all parts of the world, but what may have been the most memorable part of the evening was the third and final film.

It was an account from a K-State graduate, Kristen Tebow, who was trafficked her freshman year by a fellow K-State student she had befriended in the marching band her first two weeks of school. As a result of that experience, Tebow’s life became more complicated. She left her sorority, was dismissed from the university and consequently sought comfort in Prozac and alcohol. When she went to police and media, no one would help her. She then returned to K-State on probationary status but still felt she had no one to talk to until she met her now-husband, Austin Polley.

“He was the first person who wasn’t paid to listen; to stay by my side and listened,” Tebow said in her speech.

As far as men are concerned, Polley said it is up to them to not be consumers of this crime. When asked for advice for men who may be in the same situation as he was years ago, Polley’s answer was short and sweet.

“Don’t freak out,” Polley said. “A problem like hers is — nobody wants to hear about it, and everybody wants to ignore it. People aren’t avoiding saying they got robbed and things like that, so just realize it’s just a crime, and it’s even worse than other crimes.”

After meeting Polley, Tebow decided that she would no longer let the event rule her life. She started Freedom Alliance in 2009, and it is still prevalent at K-State today.

Groups like Freedom Alliance and iEmpathize strive to end human trafficking. iEmpathize offers a multitude of information on their website iEmpathize.org including a calendar of events, and ways to donate. Freedom Alliance is hosting the Run Against Slavery Sept. 21. All proceeds will benefit Exodus Cry, Rapha House, and the Homestead.

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