What’s the going rate for a Egyptian prostitute? How much do families in India earn from selling their daughters into brothels? How much do sex tourists pay to sleep with child slaves in Thailand?
Know the right answer and you could win a digital camera or George Foreman grill.
Tacky? Absolutely. But the game-show shtick can also apparently boost participation at anti-human-trafficking events 200 percent. (Listen in, by clicking 'play' below.)
The Denman Room of UTSA’s University Center on Tuesday night is nearly full; the audience is enthusiastically engaged, equally willing to wager on the price for illicit sex or a board game.
Is this kind of attendance usual for an event sponsored by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship?
“That’s not regular for hardly anything you do at UTSA,” says Ana Graves, InterVarsity’s campus minister.
The first year Graves tried to bring the grim reality of sex trafficking to UTSA students she could only draw 40 students from the 29,000 attending the school's two campuses. Then she stumbled on the game-show formula, a student crafted the script, and they’ve witnessed a dramatic response.
Year two brought in 200 students. This year was just shy of that, at about 180.
Graves partnered with other campus groups and used various forms of outreach to promote the event and its message.
They also screened a video produced by International Justice Mission about trafficking with several audiences, Graves said. “We actually probably educated more people than came last night,” she said. “Any way we can get education out, we want to get it out. And more came than if you just say, ‘We’re going to talk about human trafficking!’”
But there is a fine line between education and the continued dehumanization of others through humor. After another of Baptist Student Ministries’ Emmanuel Roldan’s calls for estimates about the price of a human life in yet another distant nation, one attendee hollers out not a monetary figure but “a banana.”
And yet, just as things begin to slip into a deeper state of silliness, two investigators from the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office crash the party to explain the horrors of trafficking as they exist here in San Antonio.
“When you talk to a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old and they’re telling you what animals out there did to them for money. I can’t explain it to you. But I’m going to give you a hint,” said Bexar County Sgt. Jerry Garza (left), as he squared off with the room.
Imagine yourself a child in a tiny room, he tells the group, and you’re listening to men outside the curtain talking about you and talking about money.
On the other side, you hear somebody screaming and crying for help, saying, "Please don’t do that to me! Why are you doing this to me?!” he continues.
“On the nightstand is a tube of KY, a box of condoms, a timer, and a little box of paper towels. And as you’re sitting there listening to what’s happening behind you, that curtain opens up. And that animal walks in there with you. And for 20 minutes you belong to him. He will do anything and everything to you he wants, because he paid for you," he says.
Smiles across the room retract.
“If that doesn’t get to your head, think about your siblings. Think about your little brother or little sister, who the day before was riding their bicycle in front of your house. Now they’re in that room and for 20 minutes they belong to someone else.”
“For you, 20 minutes is a walk downstairs to get something to eat and go to class,” he says. “For those kids it’s a lifetime. The 20-minute timer stops and the next hand comes through the curtain and it starts all over again.”
“Now imagine that 12-year-old tell you to your face. And knowing that there are thousands, thousands more out there, and you only have one. That’s 20 minutes.”
Garza and Investigator Renee Ochoa are the only two law enforcement officers dedicated strictly to sex trafficking in South Texas. And while the two get calls from across the region, the need in San Antonio alone is beyond their capacity to handle.
For her part, Graves said she will continue to advocate on behalf of the victims of trafficking.
“We’re about empowering the future leaders of our world. That’s what college students are. So, if we can get people to know about this, they’re gonna start fighting it,” she said.
So expect uncomfortable gimmicks to continue, and through them, hopefully, a mobilized anti-slavery movement.
And, yes, guess the price right and you could be competing for the change to win a George Foreman Grill, a digital camera, or an Apples to Apples board game.