If you think sex trafficking is something that happens in other places, to other people’s sisters, daughters, sons, know that in the time it takes you to read this post, another 2 or 3 teens will be sex trafficked in this country. It happens in DC, and the average age of a victim is just 12 years old.
Let that sink in.
You may be disgusted by those statistics, as filmmaker Philipa Booyens was. She learned about it from a mentor that was involved in fighting human trafficking. The Dallas-based writer used her talent – she wrote a harrowing and important film, “8 Days.” It tells the story of 16-year-old Amber, a girl from a good family in Texas, who is trafficked. Her parents do everything right, but something goes terribly wrong. California-based actress Nicole Smolens, who is now 17, plays Amber and she says it was her toughest role by far.
I interviewed Nicole and Philipa this last week when the film premiered in DC. They’re premiering it in 8 cities where the most victims of human trafficking disappear from. Money raised form tickets helps local organizations that help survivors. In the DC area, they donated to Safe House For Hope in Baltimore.
You can watch the story here: WUSA9 story on 8 Days
What stayed with me afterwards is the nagging insistence that we all need to do the uncomfortable, stretch beyond our comfort zone. Don’t just hide behind your phone or keep your head down, look around in life. If you see something that doesn’t look right, say something. That could save one of these tweens or teens from unimaginable circumstances. Here’s why.
I’ve interviewed Richmond, VA-based sex trafficking survivor and advocate Holly Austin Smith several times, and she tells a harrowing tale of how she met a man in a mall in New Jersey when she was a vulnerable teen. He gained her trust, and after several weeks of phone calls, he whisked her away to Atlantic City, telling her they were going to a club, and instead forcing her to become a prostitute.
She says along the way, this man took her to a mall to buy some “going-out clothes.” There, she saw the mom of one of her friends who saw her too, and she says she saw her friend’s mom’s face register discomfort and then she looked away. If that mom had done something or said something, Holly might not have had to suffer the way she did.