I dreaded watching this film and I honestly only went because I can’t endorse or speak to a film I have not watched. I have been asked dozens of times to share my thoughts. My dread came because I already know the reality around sex trafficking and I fully understand that I cannot watch, read, or even have a conversation about the reality of what IS HAPPENING EVERY SINGLE DAY ALL AROUND THE WORLD without a broken heart all over again. Yes, I exited the theater trying to stop the ugly cry. My reaction is quite normal considering the subject matter: CHILDREN ARE BEING CAPTURED, SOLD AND BOUGHT FOR SEX. The theater was full, and everyone sat in silence for a good few minutes, following the film. It is painful to watch and at the same time full of hope. It is well done and walks the line very carefully of exposing the truth without sensationalizing the crime.
Some of our bravest survivors of trafficking have rightly expressed sadness about the movie and the fear that it could minimize something that is a very real for each of them. Or the film could show one limited angle to trafficking leaving their less publicized form of trafficking unaddressed. Most of their stories wouldn’t make a very interesting movie.
I have given the last 14 years of my life to fight this crime through the nonprofit I founded called Priceless. Every day in my work this is the subject matter. The stories never get easier to hear. The damage done in the life of a young woman or young man is devastating. Depression, suicide, mental illness, substance abuse are all the normal outcomes of being bought and sold for sex hundreds of times and beaten into compliance. The obstacles to fight this crime are getting worse. I often feel lonely in this fight and sometimes I fall apart and want to quit. I watch my team of case managers, mentors and admins and care providers be used, lied about, minimized, and drained by competitive social service providers, politically motivated leaders, and misinformed and untrained but well-meaning friends. This is all in addition to the expected difficult relationships they have come to expect from clients who have no idea how to give and receive love. So yes, going to a theater to watch a movie about a crime I fight daily, with a big bucket of popcorn sounds as appealing as a root canal.
The Sound of Freedom will be used mightily to shed light on a crime whose growth is out of control. I am grateful for this. I highly recommend the film for this reason. Go see it. Take your friends. Talk about it, post about it and see it again. But please don’t stop there. The rescue of children deep in the jungle or in third world country is necessary. But trafficking in our own country is out of control and can’t continue to be ignored. Most of us have become desensitized to just how common and out in the open or even normalized sexual slavery or trafficking has become all around us.
In Alaska a very necessary and important legislation carefully crafted by many people on the front lines fighting this crime has been brought to the floor twice in Juneau and failed twice to be made into law. Why? God only knows. My own suspicion is that we have a slew of law makers, and by extension a population, who do not like any language or restrictions put in place that would make it harder to purchase sex in our state and get away with it. Perhaps they like being able to “recreate” in this way. But if you do not follow the money and go after those who buy sex, we can’t end trafficking. If trafficking remains a 150 billion dollar a year business around the world, we can’t end this crime. The U.S. is the number one country purchasing children for sex. There is absolutely no way a purchaser of sex can know for certain that the person they are purchasing is of age. They can’t know if the person they bought is receiving the money they earn. If someone is of age how does a purchaser know that they did not enter the trade as a child, were abused as a child or used as a child in such a way they believe this is all they are worth or good for now?
In our country we use minimizing language to hide the reality of this crime. Calling someone an “unaccompanied minor” is a sanitized way of describing a likely a child slave sold into this country for free labor or sex or most likely for both. These unaccompanied minors will never end up on the back of milk carton nor will any of them raise the Amber Alert. They are flooding our borders.
We as a country, refuse to look at the fact that there is an undeniable link between pornography and how it fuels abuse and fuels trafficking. For some, a porn addiction is progressive. Looking at an image can lead to a desire to act out with someone younger and younger and even try more and more nefarious sexual acts. The rise of sexual torture is something that cannot be ignored.
Another key factor in the U.S. that is fueling sex crimes against kids is the mass sexualization of children. I was shocked to hear that in a health care training, the language around molestation had been changed to “unwanted sexual touch”. In other words, if a child is ok with the sexual touch, then is it no longer considered wrong. A five-year-old can easily be coerced into accepting unwanted touch in exchange for candy for example.
In the U.S. the number one form of recruiting a vulnerable young person into the world of trafficking is through the internet. This is rarely even allowed to be talked about in our schools. Are we training our kids to understand the dangers? The internet is being used to exploit vulnerabilities in masse of our youngest kids right from the privacy of their own homes.
I could drive you around Anchorage Alaska and show you where trafficking is happening in plain sight. We have cases of trafficking in all 6 high schools in Anchorage.
So now what?
-Reach out to vulnerable kids and teens in your own neighborhood.
-Pay attention and report odd behavior.
-Get some level of education on how trafficking happens in our state.
-Volunteer to walk with a survivor that made it out. They have a long and painful journey to healing ahead of them and they will need a village.
-Support organizations that are doing their best to fight back and reclaim the territory back from traffickers.
-Ask how we are doing or how you can pray for us. Send kind words of encouragement to my team and our amazing volunteers or anyone else on the front lines.
-Host or attend a training in your organization or church for the following:
-Internet Safety Training
-Trafficking In Plain Sight
-Mentorship 101: Walking with Those in the Margins
-Engage Training – Priceless’ Flagship Training
-Redefine Worth Event - Host a table or be a corporate sponsor at our yearly awareness funding event to fight trafficking
Thank you for letting me have a chance to speak my heart friends. We can’t do what we do without people all around us who care.
Executive Director of Priceless
Priceless trainings can be found on the following site: