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Songs Against Slavery benefit concert raises awareness about human trafficking

Grace Theisen (left) and Hannah Doan (right) in the WMUK studio.
Rebecca Thiele, WMUK

This Thursday night, singer/songwriters Grace Theisen and Hannah Doan will use their music to help victims of human trafficking through Songs Against Slavery. The event’s goal is to raise awareness about human trafficking in the U.S. and fundraise for The Daughter Project, a safe house for victims.

Hope College student Grace Theisen says she and Western Michigan University student Hannah Doan like their music to have a purpose.

“That’s the kind of the music that we like to write, [it] is more positive and uplifting," says Theisen. "And just for wounded people out there who are having a hard time getting through the day. So music, to us, is pretty impactful.”

Theisen says sex trafficking in the United States is a complicated problem.

“In other countries these women are actually taken from their house and forced into this, where in America these so-called pimps will come and just find girls off the streets who don’t really have a good family life, may have been abused, and will just sort of win them over—as in becoming their boyfriends," Theisen says. "So these girls become mentally and emotionally attached to these men. So when the police get involved, the girls are like ‘Oh no, they’re my boyfriends. I don’t want to leave.’ Which is really sad. And it’s really sticky in America, there are a lot of ways that it’s involved through prostitution and pornography and it’s not something easy to spot.”

Acoustic pop musician Steve Moakler will also perform at Songs Against Slavery. Moakler sells bird houses at his concerts to raise money for anti-trafficking nonprofits in Nashville. He took Theisen and Doan to visit a rehabilitation center for sex trafficking victims. Doan says talking with the victims was a moving experience.

“They would go through their stories and the things that they’ve gone through," Doan says. "And it was just that moment where it became very real. These are real people, this has happened to them, and yet here they are trying to recover and forgive and feel beautiful again.”

Theisen says sex trafficking doesn’t just happen in big cities. In fact, many victims get picked up in areas outside of town like truck stops and strip clubs.

“We talked to a former victim who was trafficked out of Kalamazoo and she started as a stripper," says Theisen. "And from that she just got heavily involved with drugs and stuff and it just led to these men buying her. And it led into what people would call ‘sex trafficking.’”

Though some of the songs Theisen and Doan will perform at the concert are about human trafficking, Theisen says most of the songs are just about hope, like Theisen's song "Let Us Not Turn Around."

“It talks about how we’re not promised that this life is a cake walk, but to live each day in the moment and to live with forgiving hearts," Theisen says. "Just to not turn around to the past, just to not keep looking back to the past but to keep looking forward.”

Singer/songwriters Grace Theisen and Hannah Doan will perform with Steve Moakler at Songs Against Slavery. The event is Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Kalamazoo First Assembly of God.

If you suspect someone is being trafficked, here are a few resources:

Women At Risk International: 616-855-0796

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Campaign to Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking

Safe Horizon Anti-Trafficking Program: 718-943-8631

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