ROCK SPRINGS — Community members participated in an interactive and immersive human trafficking awareness experience Wednesday afternoon in an event called In Her Shoes, hosted by Uprising and the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office.
Uprising is an organization and movement that aims to empower communities, volunteers, and donors to confront human trafficking and exploitation through awareness, education, and outreach. In Her Shoes is a virtual reality (VR) experience in which participants virtually “walk a mile in the shoes” of a 14-year old trafficking victim, Lisa, as she reflects on the events that led her where she is today, and why she cannot simply leave.
“It’s designed to elicit en empathetic response,” Uprising Executive Director Terri Markham said.
The VR experience is provided by Radical Empathy Education Foundation, Markham said. The goal is to place participants inside the shoes of a human-trafficking victim to raise awareness, as well as to provide empathy and understanding to these situations.
Participants Kaitie Ice and Zoey Eaton both said the program did make them feel empathetic. Ice said the experience shed light on what many victims go through.
“It was very moving and it’s very sad that that happens every day and none of us know about it,” Ice said.
Eaton, who is nearly 14 years old just like the victim in the program, said the experience encouraged her to be more careful and thoughtful when using social media.
“It made me feel I need to be more careful, like on Snapchat just not adding random people back if I don’t know them,” Eaton said.
Markham said the event in Rock Springs, which was hosted at Western Wyoming Community College, was the first outreach event with this specific technology. Uprising was founded three years ago and they travel across the state to spread awareness and provide education on human trafficking in Wyoming, but they just recently acquired the VR technology in the past month.
She wasn’t sure how the turn out would be, but she was impressed by the number of community members who showed up to learn more about human trafficking awareness.
“I’m ecstatic people showed up,” she said.