While walking in the NMU Academic Mall next week, students may be surprised to see one of their fellow students thrown into a vehicle and carried off, with no explanation whatsoever.
And though most will be confused as the vehicle speeds away, Ben Wielechowski of Promoters for Nonviolent Peace Resolution (PNPR), said he hopes the kidnappings will raise awareness about human trafficking.
PNPR will stage the kidnappings at 10:50 a.m. every day from Feb. 23-26.
The voluntary victims will scream and fight back to add realism to the event, said Wielechowski, the organization’s founder.
Public Safety will be present to ensure that bystanders understand the event is staged. The assailants will wear fluorescent yellow vests and the victim will wear fluorescent orange.
After the kidnapping, the victim will be dropped off somewhere on campus to continue their day. Also, posters will be put up around campus showing a photograph of the “missing” person, and the first three individuals to approach the missing person and ask questions about the kidnapping will receive a voucher for a prize.
“It’s not just (important to point) the kidnapped person out, you need to interact with them,” Wielechowski said.
The voucher can be redeemed upon attendance of Theresa Flores’ speech, which will take place on March 11, and is sponsored by PNPR. She will speak in the Whitman Commons from 6 to 8 p.m. about her own experiences with human trafficking.
Wielechowski said that at the age of 15, Flores was invited to a friend’s house where she was slipped a date rape drug and photographed while unconscious. The assailants blackmailed her into forced prostitution under the pretense that if she did not submit to their wishes, they would publicize the photographs. She went to school and even returned home each day only to sneak out at night, unwillingly becoming a prostitute.
Wielechowski said the kidnapping event is meant to raise awareness about people like Flores.
“The reason for this demonstration is to shock people,” he said.
The human trafficking that takes place in the United States generally is initiated by people who gained the victim’s trust. The kidnapping often occurs during an event which the victim entered into voluntarily, such as a date, or a sleepover where the “friend” lures the victim into a trap. Often, victims of human trafficking are young.
Wielechowski said that solicitors of prostitutes are usually not aware if the prostitutes are willingly in their position or if they have been forced to be prostitutes.
Landon Utterback, a member of PNPR, said he decided to act as a volunteer victim for the event because he sees human trafficking as a worldwide problem.
Utterback said the goal is for strangers to approach him about being a missing person.
“One of our goals is to show people they should care for their fellow man,” he said.
One of the issues facing human trafficking, Utterback said, is that missing people go largely ignored by society.
“How many times have you picked up a paper and found a ‘have you seen me’ leaflet and you just discard it?” Utterback asked.