Jacksonville University puts Florida's human trafficking challenges in the spotlight with events around the community.

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. --Telisia Espinosa is speaking out about her experiences in the human trafficking trade. Espinosa came from a broken home, was sexually abused in childhood and lived with a mother who struggled with drug abuse. Ultimately, Espinosa found herself in the middle of an issue many people on the First Coast simply aren't aware of -- human trafficking.

According to the Polaris Project, an organization that offers services to victims through advocacy and support, human trafficking is a form of "modern-day slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others."

While the topic may seem foreign, Florida ranks third nationally in the number of calls received by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center's hotline.

To ensure Espinosa's story is heard loud and clear, Jacksonville Universityprofessor Nathan Rousseau and local attorney Crystal Freed, are organizing a series of events with Jacksonville University, Artworks For Freedom and other organizations to be held around the area, which aim to bring awareness to the issue.

Where Florida and Jacksonville rank in the number of calls received by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center's Hotline First Coast News

"People have a false sense of how slavery has evolved," Rousseau says. "It's changed, but it's very much alive."

Rousseau said millions of people are caught in the trap of human trafficking -- often kids and women held against their will, sometimes only freed by their own deaths. According to the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking, about 2.5 million people are enslaved at any given time by human trafficking and more than 9 out of 10 people suffer from physical or sexual violence.

Although the topic itself is hard to discuss, Rousseau and Freed say it is crucial for everyone, especially here in Jacksonville, to know it is an issue that is happening right in their backyard.

Why the topic of human trafficking is a difficult topic to discuss. First Coast News

Included in the events planned is an art exhibit entitled "Borderless Captivity," a dance performance of "These We Don't See" by members of Jacksonville's Chelsea James School of Performing Arts, and "Not My Life," which centers on human trafficking. Espinosa spoke about her experiences before the film played.

Every event, including this film, is an opportunity to raise the awareness of human trafficking and it's modern-day form of slavery. To which Rousseau adds:

"This issue brings to light for me more than any other how barbaric humanity still is. It's a symptom of how little we have progressed despite all our technology and knowledge."

Discussing "Not My Life," and Telisia's experience First Coast News

- "Not My Life" was shown Thursday, Feb. 13 at Jacksonville University.

- "Borderless Captivity," with artwork by Kay Chernush, will run Feb. 28 in Davis Student Commons

For more information about human trafficking, visit thePolaris Project online. For more information about the human trafficking awareness campaign, visit Artworks for Freedom online.

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