Sex Trafficking of Girls Is an Underground American Problem


Last week I saw someone in my Twitter feed mention the new movie, The Long Night, that was recently featured on the New York Times. The Long Night is an online film by Tim Matsui and Media Storm and funded by the Alexia Foundation about girls who are sex trafficked in and around Seattle. I immediately watched the entire movie and sat there in stunned silence! I just couldn’t believe what I was watching. I came to quickly realize how easy it is for young girls (mostly who come from abusive families) to fall tragically into lives where they become prostitutes, are owned and branded by their pimps, and use drugs to simply forget the lives they live. I also learned that prostitution is a cycle nearly impossible to leave because most of these girls do not have educations and many have criminal backgrounds. It then becomes even harder for them to become employed and to leave the life of sexual exploitation and trafficking.

Primarily following the lives of two young women, Natalie (a runaway from a good home) and Lisa (who was turned out by her pimp at 13), Matsui delves into the catalysts that drove them both to enter a life of being sex trafficked and their struggle to live a “normal” life. It was all too easy for them, even though at the time neither one of them really understood the risks of living the lifestyle. They were too young and fell into the trap of being coerced into becoming prostitutes by their pimps.

Lisa, who stood out most to me, is currently in jail and throughout most of the film she is noticeably high on heroin and even gets high before going into rehab where she stayed for one hour. Lisa also used to be a “cutter” and so along with her track marks are countless healed wounds from where the slashed her arms and legs.

"I’m not going nowhere. I have an image in my head of what I would want to be, but no matter what, it’s like, how do I get there? But in reality, maybe I realize that me being in jail, me getting sober, is a step toward that image of who I want to be."
“I’m not going nowhere. I have an image in my head of what I would want to be, but no matter what, it’s like, how do I get there? But in reality, maybe I realize that me being in jail, me getting sober, is a step toward that image of who I want to be.”

The one silver lining of the film is that there is King County police officers who help girls like Nicole and Lisa get immediately shelter, support, longterm housing, and rehabilitation services.

Taylor
Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Taylor, on how his policing changed when he started listening to the sex workers he encountered on the job. “Take the time to engage them and talk to them and find out why they are out there and I think it would change a lot of officers’, young officers’, minds and not look at them as throw away people.”

This year alone 2740 sex trafficking cases have been reported. I’m sure that number is probably just the tip of the iceberg since so much of sex trafficking is underground. California, Texas, Florida, New York and New Jersey are the top sex trafficking states based on data from the National Sex Trafficking Resource Center.

When you watch The Long Night you can easily become overwhelmed and feel a little helpless about what you can do to help these girls who are in such vulnerable positions.

The good news is there are ways you can help!

• First, think about your sphere of influence
• Then, watch the film at thelongnightmovie.com
• Like the Facebook page facebook.com/moviethelongnight
• Like the Facebook page facebook.com/leavingthelife
• Invite your friends to do the same
• Comment on the film. On your page or on the film’s. Tweet about it.
• Share a story. Share your own Call to Action.
• Host a living room screening of the film
• Bring the film to your PTA or PEPS group
• Integrate it into your schools
• Call your city officials and ask they watch the film.
• Get the film to your local police chief
• Get your mayor on board
• Find local victim service providers and ask what they need; socks, meals, donations for their annual fundraiser, they’ll know. And then let your community know what you did, inspire them!
• Have Leaving the Life come to your municipality to facilitate the co-creation of solutions in day-long convenings. This will take some work, even if you’re the mayor or the county executive.
• Because it’s all connected, consider donating to your favorite non profit working on a social justice issue. This includes Leaving the Life www.leaving-the-life.com/take-action

4 thoughts on “Sex Trafficking of Girls Is an Underground American Problem”

  1. Thanks so much Jennifer for telling us about this important film. I was struck by both girls. Natalie seems so normal that it is scary to see how easily she falls into prostitution and Lisa is so messed up on drugs that it makes me so sad. Both are such beautiful girls too. The cops were wonderful and it was nice to see them caring so much and helping these girls.

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    1. You’re welcome Nicole! Thank you for watching and for advocating for girls who are affected by trafficking. Natalie’s story is just so horrible. Why would she run away from a good home? It’s just heartbreaking.

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      1. Yes I don’t know that I completely understand it. Another friend of mine in Maryland said a girl came to her door the other day who obviously looked trafficked. She didn’t realize it until after she shut the door and then tried to find her to no avail. This is a good friend that I should see if she wants to join the GT200. Her name is Chelsea Hudson. Know her? She does a lot of great advocacy blogging on her blog Do a Little Good.

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