‘Only One’ review: Criminology student successfully shows horrors of human trafficking through play

Abigail Howard directed and wrote her play, called “Only One” which was shown on Feb. 9 at the University Theater, and presented a Q&A with expert panelists afterward on the topic.


The cast of “Only One.” Photo by Haley Flamenbaum

Haley Flamenbaum, Contributing Writer

Abigail Howard directed and wrote the play “Only One” which presented the need for awareness of human trafficking. The play, which was shown on Feb. 9 at the University Theater, perfectly executed its goal of spreading awareness.


The play as a whole caused the audience to gasp, cry, audit laughter (when necessary), as well as bite their fingers. The play lasted for 45 minutes and its message will last much longer. The ultimate message of this play and human trafficking as a whole is that they take advantage of those who are vulnerable. The play encompasses the saying “one person can make a difference.”


Howard said over 700 people went to see the show. Howard was also awarded the Blue Campaign Heart pin which represents the fight toward human trafficking by Alma Tucker, the president of International Network of Hearts and expert panelist for the event. 


The play


The play starts out with three main characters: Emma (Rebecca Lili Seide), Shane (Alex Athanasiou) and Ashley (Sofia Puritz), who are victims of human trafficking. As the play begins, Ashley is trying to rally up support with Emma and Shane to escape. However this causes tension to arise, leading to each character being victimized. 


The one thing that they all have in common is vulnerability, which the predators feed off of in show. Emma works at a diner and dreams about being an actress in Hollywood. One day at work, she meets a man who states that he has connections in Hollywood and that she could make it big. However, this interaction causes Emma to disregard her safety and allows her naivety to take control of her. This leads her to being kidnapped. 


Shane discusses his interaction with a man who he fell in love with online. Shane is manipulated emotionally to disregard his intuition and online safety and meets up with his lover in person. This interaction leads to Shane being drugged, asphyxiated and transported into the location.


Ashley describes her childhood background by being sexually abused by her father which caused her to find comfort in her boyfriend. This dependability leads to vulnerability and mental and emotional manipulation into meeting his family, but it’s just a trick to traffick her. 


Each of these predators described, work as a team and prey off of the weak. In the climax, Ashley revolts by not putting clothes on that she and Emma were being forced to wear — which causes Emma to be sexually abused. Shane also ends up being physically abused. In the end, all of the men came into the room where the victims were being held and prepared to sell them. This action allows Ashley to escape, which causes her ex- boyfriend, the trafficker, to try to capture her which raises a person’s attention in the audience to speak up. The play concludes with the message “see something, say something.”


“Only One” used a particular line throughout the entirety of the play to emphasize the psychological damage of being victimized and targeted. The overriding lyric that was repeated was “listen to my story if you care to hear” further emphasizes all three of these characters who are vulnerable in certain ways. 


The panel


Each of these panelists covered subjects concering human trafficking in their area of expertise. Here’s who was there: 


  • Alma Tucker is the president of International Network of Hearts and founder and director of Courage Home in Mexico. She has dealt with human trafficking for over 20 years.
  • Alex Ortiz is the director of the Child Rescue Coalition (CRC). His mission is to protect the innocent through techology as human trafficking is becoming accessible through social media. 
  • Heidi Schaeffer is the president of Human Trafficking Coalition of the Palm Beaches. Her goal is to raise awareness about trafficking.
  • Dr. Calli Cain, an assistant professor at FAU’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and human trafficking educator works to inform students about the reality of human sex trafficking. 


In the expert panelist and Q&A, there were a series of multiple questions.


Schaeffer was asked how to identify human trafficking. Hedi said, human trafficking, by federal definition “is compelled labor of some sort.” In this regard, there are three elements necessary in order to prosecute a case across the board: force, fraud, and coercion. 


Tucker was asked to explain the implication of immigration in regards to human trafficking. Tucker said that immigration sometimes complicates human trafficking due to lack of documentation, lack of contact, vulnerability and the mass amount of escape throughout South Mexico’s borders. Traffickers take control of this situation by feeding off their innocence in regards to safety and food as well as their lack of contact and documentation, he said. This allows their crimes to be off the radar. 


Ortiz was asked how child pornography related to sex trafficking of minors. Alex stated that child pornogorphy is no longer a term, now it is reffered to as child sexual abuse material because it clearly indicates that the child has not consented to the seual act. 


Ortiz stated that social media is one of the biggest platforms to allow predators to access children due to its accessibility.  Ortiz said, “Just last year, 2019 was the first time in history that video content has surpassed image content. They recorded 70 million files, and of those 70 million files, 41 million were video content.”


As a whole, the aftermath of human trafficking can be referred to as “the psychological chains are stronger than the phsyical chains,” said Tucker. 


For more information and if in an emergency, please contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline (1) 888-373-7888 or text BeFree to 233733.


Haley Flamenbaum is a contributing writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected].