‘Hear Their Voices’: Art exhibit honors survivors, victims of human trafficking

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — For many, art is a way to express stories too hard to tell on their own. For local artist Kim McCoy, she shares her art on behalf of those who may struggle to express themselves at all.

January is Human Trafficking Awareness month and McCoy’s art exhibit remembering past and current enslaved people is on display at Norfolk’s Slover Library.

McCoy used different articles of donated clothing to represent different types of survivors and victims in the forced labor industry.

The clothing pieces hang in a wooden box lined with chicken wire and secured with a heavy, old padlock. Intimate pieces inside are hardened by acrylic, meant to keep the clothing from swaying and representing the “silencing” of those impacted.

Each is bound by types of captors – items hung by electronic cords represent online trafficking, others hung by black necklaces signify high net-worth traffickers and paper chains made of stolen birth certificates and passports represent those whose identities are being held as leverage.

Katie Cooper, the anti-trafficking coordinator with Norfolk’s Samaritan House, says they helped shelter 49 human trafficking survivors last year. Cooper told 10 On Your Side she believes the loss of income by some families may have contributed to the numbers seen in the human trafficking industry this year.

According to ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Norfolk branch, there were 16 arrests, five cases prosecuted, and 25 confirmed victims related to the forced labor industry from April to September.

HSI Norfolk says last year they also rescued four juveniles. They add that two of those cases involved parents trafficking their own children.

Kim McCoy’s work is on display at Slover Library starting Tuesday, January 19 to Saturday, February 27.

She wanted to give special thanks to Old Dominion University Professor Mellissa Hill, whose assignment to inspire social activism was the beginning of Hear Their Voices.

If you’d like to talk with the McCoy, Slover Library is hosting a virtual meet up with the artist to talk about the display and ways to support victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.

Register here for the free conversation Thursday, February 18 from 5:30-6:30 p.m.

If you are a victim or know anyone who is a victim, please call the Human Trafficking Task Force hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or the Samaritan House Crisis Hotline at 757-430-2120.

The Samaritan House is also always accepting monetary donations and donation items such as clothes, shoes and toiletries. Click here to donate or learn more.

Stay with WAVY.com for more local news updates.

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