Statistics have numbed us. No, I don’t mean the class (although that can be numbing as well), but statistics have distanced us from the reality behind them. I have one for you: 40.3 million. That is the number of people who are trafficked globally every year. 40.3 million individual human beings used as commodities and exploited. Here is another number: 98. That is the number of seconds that go by before another person is sexually assaulted in the United States. 15 million girls between the ages of 15-19 globally have experienced sexual violence. Sexual violence is so stigmatized that we do not even have a global statistic available for boys of the same age. These are severe human rights violations, and they demand our attention.
It is far too easy to see a statistic and ignore the face of who that statistic represents. Perhaps in this social media era, where reality is hidden three filters and thousands of “friends” deep, we have forgotten how to partake in truly meaningful interactions with others. The influx of social media being the extent to which we are involved in the lives of others is merely evidence to the larger issue: we are removed from reality. We are removed from reality when statistics mean more to us than the person behind the statistic. It is easy to see someone as a number when you don’t know their name. We are taught to know the facts, but we are starving for human relationship.
I propose the reinstatement of intentional and meaningful relationships amongst our peers. Perhaps by putting down our phones and looking into the faces of those around us, we can acknowledge their humanity. We will never rid ourselves of the stigma around human rights violations if we cannot engage in meaningful relationships. This may sound like a futile solution, but we cannot solve catastrophic problems without addressing even their smallest roots. They must be chipped away at, worn down, exhausted by decency, and conquered by the indomitable human spirit. Respect and dignity are foundational to our basic human rights. Let the recognition and honoring of these things be something we never have to question.
Alexandra Ferris is a rising UConn senior, majoring in political science.