People Are Pouring Sand Onto Sidewalks For Trafficking Victims Who Fall Through Cracks

"We need to question our surroundings. We need to have the courage to do that.”

Though millions are affected, human trafficking remains largely a hidden crime, which is why a New York-based artist is smattering color all over the issue to make it impossible to ignore.

Across the globe, nearly 36 million people are victims of human trafficking, which means they are exploited through forced labor or sex. Despite these overwhelming figures though, human trafficking is still a challenging crime to detect, so inter-disciplinary artist Molly Gochman is turning public spaces into activism hubs to get passersby to pay attention to the issue.

Last year Gochman began a public installation project that encouraged supporters to pour red sand into cracks on sidewalks. 

“These interventions remind us that we can’t merely walk over the most marginalized people in our communities -- those who fall through the metaphoric crack,” Gochman said in a statement. “The simple act of placing sand in a crack or posting a photo on social media may seem inconsequential, but small actions can help raise awareness of the issues facing those who are overlooked.”



To help raise awareness specifically for refugees who are now at an increased risk for exploitation, Gochman teamed up with activists in Houston this year to build a 300-foot trench to mirror the shape of the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

The artist invited the public to pour sand and dirt onto the project for it to represent an open wound that’s turned into a scar, according to TakePart.

Advocates are particularly concerned about refugees’ risks as the crisis unfolds around the world. An estimated 1.5 million refugees are expected to enter Europe this year, Al Jazeera reported.

Since January, for example, 4,371 women and girls from Nigeria have reached Italy, and it's suspected many are victims of trafficking.

Gochman hopes the installations will invoke questions, and get people who weren’t previously aware or involved, to start taking action.

“Some people will actually ask, ‘What are you doing?’” Gochman said in an interview when passersby see participants pouring sand into sidewalks. “We need to ask. We need to question our surroundings. We need to have the courage to do that.”

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