(The panel at University of Houston.)

After finishing a pleasant Thanksgiving holiday on the Gulf Coast, we headed east into Texas.  Our gracious hosts shared their cozy home with us, and got us into the Christmas spirit with some of their decorations.  On Monday, Nov. 28, we showed the film at Iglesia Bautista de Houston.  Tuesday we showed the film at University of Houston.  Our panel for the university included an FBI Agent; Dennis Mark, the Director of Redeemed Ministries, an aftercare provider for adult victims of sex trafficking; Kellie Armstrong, the Executive Director of Freedom Place, a home that will soon be opening for juvenile victims of sex trafficking; Kendra Penry, from the Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition, a sex trafficking prevention program for youth; and Dawn Lew, a Senior Staff Attorney for Children at Risk.  Mr. Mark focused on the need for aftercare that is specific to the needs of each victim.  Though the restoration community would benefit from some broadly defined protocols for best practices, in the end, services need to be catered to the needs of each survivor.  Additionally, Ms. Perny shared about the mandatory training for law enforcement in Texas, as all new officers have to receive at least four hours of training on human trafficking.  By the end of the next fiscal year, Perny said, every single officer in Houston will be trained to respond to the issue.

It took a couple days to make it from Houston to Albuquerque.  On the way we encountered much colder weather than we initially expected.  Thankfully we weren’t entirely immobilized by the snow we encountered.  By the time we made it to the East Gate Church in Albuquerque for the screening, we were all too pleased to find some warm (New) Mexican food prepared by our kind hosts.

(Waiting for the film to begin at East Gate Church in Albuquerque.)

(The snowy desert.)

(Morgan introducing the film at Scottsdale Bible Church.)

The next day, Saturday December 3, we woke up around 5 AM in order to make it to our screening in Phoenix that evening.  Due to the snow, we took an alternate route, which, though longer, allowed us some scenic views of the snow-laden desert landscape.  Returning to the Phoenix area was like a homecoming of sorts, as a lot of the prosecutors, vice officers, and service providers we worked with to make the film are from Phoenix; and Streetlight USA, the restoration home that we highlight in our film is based in the Phoenix area as well.  Saturday evening we showed the film at Scottsdale Bible Church, and Monday, December 5th we showed the film at Arizona State University.

(Introducing the film at Arizona State University.)

The panel at ASU included Lieutenant Jim Gallagher of the Phoenix Police Department; Lea Benson, the President and CEO of Streetlight USA; Carolyn Jones, a survivor of sex trafficking from Phoenix; and a Supervisory Special Agent with the FBI.  A good part of the conversation focused on the growing momentum of law enforcement in getting the greater community of Phoenix involved in addressing sex trafficking.  Instead of waiting for adequate victim services to be in place before taking the sex trafficking victims off the streets, law enforcement in Phoenix is taking the girls off the streets as a catalyst to spur the community to establish adequate aftercare provisions for the victims.  The approach seems to be working, as the community is starting to respond with greater urgency.  Phoenix Police are trained to accurately identify victims of sex trafficking.  Then, as stronger witness protection leads more victims to testify against their traffickers, prosecutors are able to win more cases against traffickers and johns.  Victims are then given access to aftercare services like Streetlight, and eventually they might even have access to job opportunities with local businesses.

While we were in Phoenix, a few of us were able to go visit the Streetlight facilities.  Though they aren’t yet running at their full capacity of 48 kids, we were able to meet a couple of the girls that are being rehabilitated there, and hear some of the writing they’ve been working on in their schooling.  As our group has been sharing and learning so much about victims of sex trafficking, meeting the victims face to face and witnessing even a sliver of their recovery makes the information and statistics all the more tangible.  Lea Benson, the President of Streetlight, who spends time with the girls on a daily basis, shared with us how a huge part of restoration involves creating a family environment for the girls; but she also noted how a similar family environment has to be created within the anti-trafficking community if our efforts are going to be successful.  It was exciting to hear the vision of how Streetlight is taking steps towards establishing a sort of family in their work with different members of the community in Phoenix as well as like-minded people around the country.

(A few from our team drove through the night to catch sunrise at the Grand Canyon.)

(Waiting for the sunrise.)

(Morning from the south rim of the Grand Canyon.)

(Sarah Jo introducing the film at YWAM Las Vegas. Photo: tcd.)

From Phoenix we drove north to Las Vegas, Nevada, making a quick stop on the way to visit the South Rim of the snow-accented Grand Canyon.  On Wednesday the 7th, we showed the film at the Youth With a Mission base; and on Thursday the 8th we had a screening at University of Nevada, Las Vegas.  For the panel at UNLV we were thankful to have Dr. Alexis Kennedy, an assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at UNLV, who makes a few appearances in our film; and Detective Chris Baughman, the head of the Las Vegas Pandering Investigative Team.  (Pandering is basically just another word for pimping.)  Detective Baughman explained how more and more gangs are transitioning from trafficking in drugs and weapons to trafficking humans, largely because the penalties associated with trafficking in drugs and weapons are far more severe than the penalties for sexually trafficking and violently abusing human beings.  Dr. Kennedy mentioned a statistic estimating that illegal prostitution, in Nevada alone, is a multi-billion dollar industry.

(Dr. Alexis Kennedy introducing the film at University of Nevada, Las Vegas.)

Considering the violence and massive profits that hold these crimes in place, Detective Baughman called for greater levels of compassion in law enforcement, saying that officers need to be willing to place themselves at least a little bit below those they’re trying to serve (in this case, victims of sex trafficking).  Dr. Kennedy pointed out a need for new “alternative families” to be created for survivors of sex trafficking.  The conversation seemed to show that while the ravenous pursuit of profit and power hold these violent crimes in place, generosity and compassion can impede and even reverse their growth.

(A bustling Las Vegas.)

(We dropped the bus off at its home in Las Vegas.)

On Friday, December 8th we drove to Orange County in California, where we held the final screening of the tour at Newsong Church in Irvine.  We were surprised and blessed by the amount of friends and family who were in the area and were able to make it to the screening.  Though the screening itself was similar to most of our church screenings, being surrounded by so many of the people that have supported us from the beginning stages of planning and making the film gave us eyes to see just how far the Sex+Money project has grown.  While our project started with a small group of young people, we are now seeing it expand into a broad network of activists around the country who are catching visions of spreading freedom in their own communities.

(Morgan introducing the film at Newsong Church in Irvine, California.)

(Erica Greve, the Founder and President of Unlikely Heroes, shares about her organization’s work with victims of sex trafficking.)

(Venice Beach, California. Photo: tcd.)

Photos by Samuel Taipale and Timothy C. Dyk .

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(The audience at HopePark Church.)

On Sunday, November 13th we drove from Atlanta to the Nashville, Tennessee area to show the film at HopePark Church.  The event was put on in partnership with Abolition International.  Though AI certainly believes in the importance of awareness, the founder, Natalie Grant, also spoke of how they are committed to building homes where victims can have their lives and dreams restored.  We were thankful to see a good turnout for the event; and we got some time to catch up with Kelsy Harms, one of our associate producers who worked with us from the early stages of making the film. Kelsy was responsible for researching most of the statistics that we used in our film; we’re thankful for the work she put into making our information credible.

(Natalie Grant, the founder of Abolition International, shares about the vision of her organization at HopePark Church.)

Monday the 14th we hit the road early, driving east towards Memphis for our screening of the film that evening at the University of Memphis.  On the panel we had State Senator Beverly Marrero; Assistant US Attorney Steve Parker, who is Chief of the Attorney’s Civil Rights Unit; Suzanna Parkinson, an advocate for victims of sexual crimes; Amy Weirich, the Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich; and Ryan Dalton, the Director of Anti-Trafficking Operations with Operation Broken Silence.

Asst. U.S. Atty. Steve Parker shared how this year, the Memphis US Attorney’s Office created a Civil Rights Unit that has started to place a significant amount of attention on combatting human trafficking.  Currently, their unit has placed 13 individuals under indictment for trafficking, with the smallest sentence at 15 years no parole, and the longer sentences between 25-50 years with no parole.  But Parker also acknowledged that constructing these cases was only possible with the help of a broad community of individuals who were all concerned enough to follow through with the small details of building a case.  This appears to show that if the community as a whole cannot come to a consensus regarding these crimes, any cases we may try to build will likely crumble.  On a similar note, victim advocate Suzanna Parkinson reminded the audience that human trafficking can only continue to exist in an environment of public and academic indifference.

(Sex+Money merch table in the foyer at University of Memphis.)

(Scott introducing the film at Loyola University in New Orleans.)

On Tuesday the 15th we drove south to New Orleans to show the film that evening at Loyola University.  The panel at Loyola consisted of Elizabeth Scaife, the Project Coordinator for Shared Hope International; An FBI Special Agent; Mauricio Aguilar, the Human Trafficking Case Manager at the Metro Center for Women and Children; and Lieutenant William Hare, of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office vice squad.  Aguilar specified how our culture perpetuates the violent dehumanization of women; and until such a perspective begins to shift, we’ll be stuck dealing with an ugly aftermath.  Noting the elusive nature of traffickers, and the way they quickly shift prostituted persons between cities and states, the Special Agent said, “It’s not just one city’s problem; it’s not just a regional problem; it’s a nation wide problem.”

(Questions for the panel at Loyola University.)

Wednesday the 16th we shared the film with the congregation at Ames Boulevard Baptist Church, in the suburbs just south of New Orleans. The church already has a ministry focused on human trafficking, so many in attendance (teenagers, middle aged, and elderly) were already active in the abolitionist cause.  Though the event wasn’t especially large numerically, the night proved mutually encouraging for both of our groups.

(At the world famous Cafe Du Mond with our hosts from Ames Boulevard Baptist Church.)

(The French Quarter in New Orleans.)

(A lot of music to be enjoyed on the streets of New Orleans.)

After taking a little bit of time to enjoy New Orleans, on Saturday the 19th of November we drove to Gulfport, Mississippi.  Monday the 21st, we had a screening at the University of Southern Mississippi.  The screening was unique in that we showed the film simultaneously at two different campuses of the University – one in Hattiesburg, and one at the Gulf Coast campus in Long Beach.  Following the film at the Gulf Coast campus, there was a panel discussion that included Heather Wagner, the Assistant Attorney General for the State of Mississippi; Mississippi State Representative Diane Peranich; Dr. Marie Leonard, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at USM; and Dr. Robert Press, an Associate Professor of Political Science at USM.

Panelists spoke about how there is a need for new legislation on the issue of human trafficking in Mississippi, but any push for legislation will have to originate from the general public, as legislators are in office to represent their constituents.  Touching on the economic status of Mississippi, panelists acknowledged the need for faith-based, and other non-government funded groups to play a greater role in addressing the issue.  Seeing the effectiveness of faith-based and other non-government groups after Katrina, such groups could have a similarly positive effect in bringing restoration to their communities from the plethora of damages wreaked by human trafficking.

(Susie Harvill, from Advocates For Freedom, introducing our film at Cedar Lake Christian Assembly in Biloxi, Mississippi.)

On Tuesday the 22nd we showed the film at Cedar Lake Christian Assembly in Biloxi. Speaking with members of the congregation, it was clear they had ideas beyond just learning about human trafficking.  People were in the audience who were seasoned foster parents; others were considering plans to establish restoration facilities.  Meeting people who were so willing to become tangible answers to such concrete needs in our communities, one senses that real solutions will soon be imparted towards those who are most in need.

(Our host took us out on a swamp tour in Louisiana.)

(Spotted a couple gators on the tour.  This was just a little guy.)

(The swamp is a great place.)

This week in Mississippi, our team has been blessed to stay at what was once a shelter for volunteers who came to the area to clean up damage from Hurricane Katrina.  We’ve even had a few friends fly in to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with us.  Yesterday we had a filling Thanksgiving meal, watched a bit of football, and enjoyed the company of our large Sex+Money family.  Gratitude, in its many forms, is refreshing.

Photos by Samuel Taipale.

 

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(A quiet lake in Greensboro, NC.)*

Traveling onwards from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, we proceeded deeper into the south towards Summerville, South Carolina, which is just slightly outside of Charleston.  On Thursday, November 3rd, we sent a portion of our team to screen the film at Carolina Coastal University in Conway, near the Myrtle Beach area.  Panelists for the event included David Palinski, the co-creator and Director of Project Lighthouse, a shelter in downtown Myrtle Beach for runaway/homeless youth; Michelle Harkey, a consultant on issues of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking; Ana Andonie, of the Pee Dee Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault; and Sergeant Michael Hildebrand, from the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office.  Panelists described some of the demographics of trafficking in the area surrounding Myrtle Beach.  Since Myrtle Beach is a midpoint between New York and Florida, a lot of the sex trafficking in the area takes place within populations of runaway youth or transients who are passing through the area.  Similarly to North Carolina, law enforcement in South Carolina is being trained to see trafficking when it is taking place, but it seems as though there is a continuous learning curve for keeping up with these exploitative enterprises.

(Screening the film at Carolina Coastal University in Conway, South Carolina.)+

(Sarah-Jo introducing the film at Faith Assembly of God in Summerville, SC.)*

On Friday the 4th, we showed our film at Faith Assembly of God in Summerville.  One of the people that hosted us in Summerville is the founder of an organization called Doors to Freedom, which is currently working to bring more awareness about sex trafficking in South Carolina, in order that they can open a restoration home that will house women who are exiting sex trafficking.  It was an edifying time for our team, to hear the vision of someone who has such a clear sense of calling to bring healing to the need that exists in she and her family’s surroundings.

(The band playing after the screening at Faith Assembly of God.)*

(Chris Connoly tending to the percussion.)*

Saturday the 5th was spent almost entirely on the Interstate, driving even further southwards to Lakeland Florida where we’d be showing the film at Southeastern University the next day.  Once we arrived to Lakeland, we were blessed by the hospitality of the students, some of whom allowed us to use their beds or floor space the couple nights we were there.

As we began preparing for the film on Sunday evening, we had initially planned to use just one room.  However, as students began to trickle in, we quickly realized we’d need more space. (Of course, we recommend honoring fire codes when at all possible).  In the last minutes before the intended start time of the film, we were able to gain access to three additional rooms.  By the end of the evening we counted over 480 students who were able to see the film, many of whom stayed around after the film for a time of deeper processing and prayer.  There is always a certain weight after people take in all the content of the film, but in this particular atmosphere it seemed to build into a setting where personal healing and hope were readily available.

(Tight quarters at Southeastern University.)#

(Sarah Jo sharing in one of the screening rooms at Southeastern.)#

Monday the 7th, a small part of our team in the RV embarked for Tallahassee to screen the film at Florida State University, while the rest of us drove back up to Atlanta, Georgia.  But before the group heading to FSU got too far, they ran into some severe engine problems with the RV (black smoke billowing out of vents, etc.) and had to take it into the shop.  Those with the RV then piled into the car they were towing with the RV to make it to FSU in time for that evening’s event.

(Smoky RV.)#

(The RV hanging out with other sick (ill) vehicles.)#

The panel that shared after the film included Terry Coonan, the Executive Director of FSU’s Center for the Advancement of Human Rights; Floy Turner, a Liaison for AMBER Alert; Jan Davis, the Program Administrator of the Sexual Violence Prevention Program at the Florida Department of Health; and Tyson Elliott, the Statewide Human Trafficking Coordinator for the Florida Department of Children and Families; and Morgan Perry, the executive producer of our film. Mr. Coonan, who did most of the work organizing the event, was involved in prosecuting one of the first cases that put human trafficking on the national radar, thus making way for the passing of our country’s first anti-trafficking legislation around the year 2000.

(Screening the film at Florida State University in Tallahassee.)#

During the panel discussion, Ms. Turner and Morgan discussed restoration as three primary steps.  Though the first step of placing victims in restoration homes/facilities is a necessary part of the equation, healing doesn’t stop there.  Equipping victims with the skills they need to thrive as a member of society requires a second step of reaching out to local communities, churches, and families that are trained to invest relationally into the victims’ lives.  A third step occurs when victims are able to take their own initiative to invest in their community.  Of course, the real life outworking of these steps is not nearly so cut and dry, but these three steps might serve as a helpful way to identify and understand the key parts of what is often an extensive process.

On Wednesday the 9th, the team in Florida moved east to Alabama to hold an early morning screening of the film at Auburn University in Montgomery.  Panelists who shared after the film included Carrie Gray, the Deputy District Attorney of Alabama’s15th Judicial Circuit; Margaret Faulkner, a retired FBI Agent who specialized in child abduction cases; and Steve Searcy, from One Place Family Justice Center.  With representatives from the FBI, local law enforcement, military law enforcement, and local non-profits and ministries, the audience was essentially a statewide think tank for sex trafficking.  Due to the plethora of experts in the room, the time turned into a fast-paced, popcorn-style discussion.  The local officials showed a marked tenacity in making clear commitments to combat sex trafficking in their state.  Towards the end of the conversation, a representative from a local organization asked for a verbal commitment from the other leaders in the room, pressing those in attendance to actually take practical steps to act out against the issue in their communities.

(Morgan introducing the film at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama.)#

(Scott introducing the film at Emory University in Atlanta, GA.)*

On Thursday November 10th, we showed the film at Emory University’s School of Law in Atlanta.  We welcomed the opportunity to show the film for so many people who are using, or may in the future use their legal vocations to advocate on behalf of children and other vulnerable populations in our country.  On the panel after the film, we had Kaffie McCullough, the Commercially Sexually Exploited Children Program Manager at the Juvenile Justice Fund; Kosha Tucker, from Emory University’s Barton Center, a group that deals with childrens’ legal issues; Dalia Racine, an Assistant District Attorney assigned to the Crimes Against Children Unit; and FBI Special Agent Joe Fonseca, the Crimes Against Children Coordinator in Atlanta.  Ms. McCullough described the value of investing into victim rehabilitation from the first moment of identifying victims as such. If we just show a mediocre commitment to victims, cyclical abuse and resource drainage will continue to perpetuate themselves.  However, if we invest generous portions of our time, resources, and energy from the beginning, in the long run we’ll have an exponential increase in the amount of healthy citizens who have an incentive to invest back into the communities that assisted them in the first place.

(FBI Special Agent Joe Fonseca describes his work with the Crimes Against Children Unit in Atlanta.)*

After waiting a couple days to get the prognosis from the shop on the status of the RV, we eventually found out the work would take quite a while.  So, our team members that were originally with the RV drove back to Florida to pile the gear from the RV into a mid-sized U-Haul rental truck that it looks like we’ll be using through the end of the tour.  Though the situation is a bit unconventional, we are thankful for the ability to press forward with the last month of tour.  Within a day of posting our financial need in covering the cost of the U-Haul on Facebook, the costs were covered by a handful of individuals.  We’re extremely thankful for your generosity!

 

(In lieu of the RV, the new member of our team, Ms. Haully.)^

Photos:  Samuel Taipale (#), Chris Connoly (+), Jasen Chung(^), Timothy C. Dyk(*)

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(Passing by St. Louis and their famed arch.)

After screening the film at Community Christian Church in Kansas City, Missouri towards the end of last week, part of our team stayed in the area for a screening at Tivoli Cinemas on Thursday, October 27th.  The other half of our team made the ten-hour drive ahead to Lexington, Kentucky where we had a screening on Friday.

For the screening at Tivoli Cinemas, we were pleased to have some of the same panelists that were at Kansas State University from a couple days before.  After the screening, the FBI Supervisory Special Agent, and Kristy Childs of Veronica’s Voice, along with Morgan Perry and Scott Martin from our team, addressed questions from the audience.  Much of the conversation centered on the importance of viewing prostituted women and girls as victims.  The FBI Special Agent described how, due to the psychological manipulation of trafficked persons, teaching them to see themselves as victims is often a lengthy process.

(Autumn Mason, Dr. Claire Renzetti, and Robin Valenzuela serving on the panel at University of Kentucky.)

On Friday, October 28th the other half of our team that didn’t stay back in Kansas City was in Lexington, Kentucky, screening the film at the University of Kentucky.  Our panel after the film included Autumn Mason from our team; Dr. Claire Renzetti, a Professor of Sociology from the Center for Research on Violence Against Women at University of Kentucky; and Robin Valenzuela, from Rescue and Restore, a branch of Catholic Charities. Panelists discussed how if we don’t understand the heavy psychological bondage that keeps victims from understanding the reality of their own victimized state, we won’t understand the sort of services that need to be made available to them.  Whether due to drugs, fear of violence, or other factors, it is difficult for trafficked persons to think of themselves as victims—but this doesn’t mean they don’t need services. It just means that the care we offer needs to be rooted in an understanding of the nature of abuse that has created victims in the first place.  Such stories of hurt are often difficult to envision when we have the comforts of food, shelter, and warm communities of friends; but it is possible to awaken our senses when we are willing to position ourselves in environments that might stretch the bounds of our comfort.

(Sunset drive from Lexington, Kentucky to Louisville.)

(Gallery space at Sojourn Church in Louisville, Kentucky.)

Later Friday night, the two halves of our team rendezvoused at a church in Louisville, Kentucky that was gracious enough to host our team for a couple nights.  Saturday, October 29th, we took the film to Sojourn Church in downtown Louisville.  The location where the church meets has been converted from an old brick school building into a beautiful mash-up of settings: one part church, and one part art gallery.   Sojourn spends a lot of time thinking about how their faith affects the way they interpret art and act out in their surrounding community, so they’ve created a space where their meetings are surrounded with different art exhibits.  We were honored that such an intentionally-minded congregation would go through the effort of hosting a screening of our film for their community.

(Morgan introducing the film at Sojourn Church.)

(A warm welcome from Abolition! at Westover Church in Greensboro, North Carolina.)

Sunday, October 30th, we left Louisville at 4 AM and drove about nine hours to Greensboro, North Carolina, so we could show the film that evening at Westover Church.  It would be hard to adequately describe the amount of preparation that the host team, Abolition!, put into the event.  Abolition! was formed in 2009 by a group of people at Westover who wanted to make their congregation more aware of human trafficking.  The group now includes members from other churches in the area as well.  After such a long drive we were thankful to see swarms of people in yellow shirts with walkie-talkies running around setting up for the evening.  And their work was well worth it, as they counted over 350 people who attended the event, including a plethora of representatives from local human trafficking organizations.

(A full audience for the screening at Westover Church.)

(Scott introducing the film at University of North Carolina.)*

(Screening at UNC.)*

Our next screening was Tuesday, November 1st, in Chapel Hill, at the University of North Carolina.  The event was sponsored by Carolina Against Sex Trafficking (CAST), and the panel afterwards included Dr. Donna M. Bickford, the Director of the Carolina Women’s Center; two FBI agents; and Andrew Castle from World Relief.  Dr. Bickford acknowledged how in some ways North Carolina is ahead of the game with human trafficking, while in others they are behind.  Specifically, on July 1st of this year, North Carolina made training about human trafficking a mandatory part of orientation for law enforcement officers.  Bickford went on to describe how when our communities know what they’re looking for, they will find it more often.  Though finding the victims is something to seek after, Bickford reminded the audience that currently, if victims are found, there is not sufficient shelter space to house and keep them in secure environments.

Initially it can feel overwhelming to see the extensive roots these crimes have in our society, but airing the problems is a key step in the process of change. As we become more aware of the ramifications these crimes have in victims’ lives, we can glean vision for the many branches of creative solutions that must result.

(Selling gear outdoors at UNC.)*

In other news, we’re excited and thankful to share that we were the recipient of the Win $1000 To Change The World prize from Print 4 Change.  See the announcement on their website here.

Photos by Samuel Taipale and *Timothy C. Dyk

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 (Estes Park, Colorado.)

On October 14th, we arrived in the Denver area, where we were blessed to stay for a little over a week.  With brisk mornings, comfortably warm afternoons, and yellow leaves,  we were blessed to begin experiencing the beautiful season that is autumn.

On Monday, October 17th part of the Sex+Money team drove north to Laramie, Wyoming to show the film at the University of Wyoming.  Panelists for the event included Detective Joel Senior, from the Laramie Police Department; Jason and Michelle Korth, the founding directors of Restore Innocence, an organization based in Denver that is spreading awareness and developing aftercare facilities for girls that will be rescued from trafficking; Supervisory Special Agent Robert Leazenby, who is assigned to the Computer Crime Team within the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, which is a member of the Federal Government’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force; and Attorney Elisabeth M.W. Trefonas, who represents individuals dealing with immigration concerns, domestic violence, and other severe crimes.

While Wyoming doesn’t necessarily draw a lot of people to their state for conventions or large sporting events, Detective Senior and Special Agent Leazenby described how the Internet puts Wyoming on the same footing as any other state in dealing with sexual crimes against children.  Mrs. Korth acknowledged the heaviness of dealing with lives that have been destroyed for the sexual appeasement of others; but being someone who is whole, and has the resources to help, Korth spoke of how she can’t ignore or forget the victims.  She said, “You look them in the eye and it keeps you going because you want to help.”

(Sarah Jo introducing the film at the YWAM base in Colorado Springs, Colorado.)

On Tuesday the 18th we drove down to Colorado Springs to show the film at the Youth With a Mission (YWAM) base.  The base is currently home to different students and staff who are participating in a Discipleship Training School, a Culinary Arts School, and other projects.  A lot of the audience stuck around for an extended time of prayer after the film, to process what they had just seen.  Led by the band that has been directing the audience at our faith-based screenings, it seemed that many in the audience were moved to walk away from the event with a renewed sense of hope.

(Promoting the film on Pearl Street in Boulder, Colorado.)

Thursday the 20th, we went over to University of Colorado in Boulder to do a bit of promotion in the morning and afternoon before the evening’s screening.  The event was put on in partnership with Students Against Modern Slavery (SAMS).  While we didn’t necessarily have a panel to follow the film, a couple of us from Sex+Money, and a representative from SAMS, fielded audience questions at the end of the meeting.  As many questions arose about trafficking in the areas around Boulder and Denver, it became apparent that people were present who either had contact with or were representing human trafficking organizations in the area.  While our team relayed what we knew of human trafficking on a broad national level, it was encouraging that the attendees could hear about and connect with the constructive initiatives already at work within their midst.

(Fielding questions after the screening at University of Colorado.)

(Estes Park, Colorado.)

(Colorado bird life.)

(More Estes Park, CO.)

After a restful weekend spent around Denver, the morning of Monday the 24th, it was back to the grind as we hit the road around 4:30 AM in order to make it to Kansas State University for a screening that evening.  Freedom Alliance, a student group from the campus, did a great job promoting the event, as there was still a respectable crowd in the middle of the University’s homecoming week.  Serving on the panel we were fortunate to have FBI Special Agent Benjamin Kinsey, who created the Kansas City Division of the FBI’s Innocence Lost Task Force; Dorthy Stucky Halley, the Director of the Victim Services Division of the Kansas Office of the Attorney General; and Kristy Childs, the founder of Veronica’s Voice, a Kansas City based recovery program dedicated solely to victims of prostitution and commercial sexual exploitation. Ms. Childs also makes a couple appearances in our film, sharing the knowledge she’s gleaned from working so closely with victims of these crimes.

(Tim introducing the panelists at Kansas State University.)

Overall, while panelists discussed the diversity of the challenges that the state is facing with the issue, Mr. Kinsey’s comments suggested that Kansas’ approach towards human trafficking is growing more effective.  Traveling around the country we’ve heard so much about the need for consensus building and cohesion between the different levels of government.  As a federal agent working closely with local law enforcement, Mr. Kinsey spoke of the increasing cooperation that is starting to take place between federal and local levels of law enforcement.  The panelists are certainly aware that there’s much room for progress in their state, but nonetheless, it’s easy for hope to grow when we see people who are committed to taking steps in the right direction.

(Isaac and the Sex+Money band taking the stage after the screening at Community Christian Church in Kansas City, Missouri.)

(Selling merch.  Have you checked out the Sex+Money Online Store recently? 75% of proceeds go to Streetlight Phoenix…)

On Tuesday the 25th, Community Christian Church in Kansas City, Missouri hosted a screening of the film.  Afterwards, we heard an audience member talk about some of their experience in caring for children in their vocation.  It’s exciting when people find that their everyday vocations can often be a means of practically addressing the needs of vulnerable children in our nation.  We’re continually reminded that there is a plethora of ways that our interests and skill sets can be used in this movement.

Happy Fall!

All Photos by Samuel Taipale.

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(Near the Oregon Coast.)

After showing the film in Missoula, Montana on October 4th, the next morning we woke up early to make the long drive to Bend, Oregon.  Surrounded by snowy mountains, pine trees, and sagebrush, Bend provided ample opportunity for our team to enjoy a small sampling of the Pacific Northwest’s beauty.  We were welcomed into the home of Nita Belles and her family.  Mrs. Belles is the Central Oregon Regional Coordinator for Oregonians Against Trafficking Humans, also known as OATH.  She has been studying about human trafficking since 2006, and recently published In Our Backyard, a book about human trafficking in the United States.  She was kind enough to organize and promote our film’s screening throughout Central Oregon.  We showed our film at Westside Church in Bend on Thursday October 6th.  The event was attended not just by the congregants of Westside Church, but also by people from the greater community of Bend and the surrounding areas; it was a great example of the cooperation that must take place to address this challenge in our communities.

(Nita Belles introducing the film at Westside Church in Bend, Oregon.)

(Megan Perry.)

(Joseph Swanson and Isaac Gill.)

On Friday, October 7th, we made the drive up to Portland to show the film at Portland State University.  The panel was comprised of Jamie Broadbent, from the Child Welfare division at the Department of Human Services; Attorney Lynn Haxton, from Youth Rights and Justice; and US Attorney Kemp Strickland.  Attorney Strickland reminded the audience of the cyclical abuse propagated by commercial sexual exploitation.  Because these crimes affect children in a variety of adverse ways, many generations of people are then impacted.  Someday abused children become parents.  The fruit of that parent’s abuse then falls to their children.  Those children, raised in less than ideal situations, will be fortunate to grow up with enough love and resources to live to their full potential.  Without intervention, the cycle can easily continue on.  When we realize the negative ramifications of sexual exploitation, it’s easy to see how the future of our communities depends to a large degree on the preservation of our children.

(Panelists at Portland State University.)

After spending the next day off in Portland, and meeting up with our friends at the Artists Inspiring Action Launch Party that evening, we spent the rest of the night on the road.  Thanks to the overnight driving abilities of Sarah-Jo Sampson, we made it to Boise by the morning of Sunday, October 9th.  After a quick pancake stop at IHOP, and some afternoon naps, we headed over to Vineyard Church to screen the film.  The event was co-organized by IJM representatives from both Boise State University and Northwest Nazarene University.

(The Sex+Money team and friends at the Artists Inspiring Action Launch Party.)

(Scott introducing the film at Vineyard Church in Boise, Idaho.)

On Monday October 10th, we brought the Sex+Money bus over to Boise State University to do a bit of promotion for that evening’s screening on the campus.  The evening’s panel included Mary Kay Jost, a trainer of local law enforcement and ICE agents; Bill Proctor, from the Love Justice Task Force in Boise; Idaho Attorney Annie Kerrick, from the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence; Michelle Miles, a Physicians’ Assistant who works with local refugees; and Officer Shellie Sonnenberg, the Refugee Liaison for the Boise Police Department.  While the state of Idaho does have a provision against sex trafficking, panelists agreed that it needs to be much stronger and more specific.

(Boise State University in Idaho.)

While the panelists made it clear that ending sex trafficking is certainly aided by strong legislation, Mr. Proctor also alluded to the necessity of confronting misguided sexuality in our own personal lives. He commented, “I’m really challenging the men that are in this group tonight to think seriously about your attitude towards pornography.”

On Wednesday October 12th, we drove from Boise down to Salt Lake City, Utah for an evening screening at K2 The Church.  Recently the church has been gathering their multiple campuses back into one primary location.  Though the screening was held at K2’s main campus, multiple churches and organizations from around Salt Lake City were in attendance. The diversity of the crowd offered a glimpse of the resources that the faith-based community has to offer when they come together with a common vision and goal in mind.

(K2 The Church in Salt Lake City, Utah.)

Thursday October 13th, we made the quick drive from Salt Lake City to Orem, Utah for an afternoon screening at Utah Valley University.  The event was put on in partnership with Child Rescue.  Panelists for the afternoon included Detective Robert Woodbury, from the Salt Lake City Police Department’s Domestic Violence Squad; Alana Kindness, the Executive Director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault (UCASA); Gina Bellazetin, an active member of the Utah Human Trafficking Task Force; and Andy Choate, a Prosecutor with the Utah United States Attorney’s Office, where he is the Chief of the Immigration Unit.  A few questions from the audience expressed a common concern for how to address the unhealthy sexual appetite that is consuming much of our culture.  Ms. Kindness encouraged the audience to start by looking at gender roles and gender socialization within our society.  She also emphasized how even without being directly exposed to sex, unhealthy sexual stereotypes can be developed just through looking at our culture at large.

(The panel at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah.)

It’s a good question to consider.  When we come across gender objectification in our everyday lives, do we push back and challenge the inequality, or do we accept it as the way things are?

For the rest of the week our team is working out of Colorado to put on screenings in Laramie, Wyoming, Colorado Springs, and Boulder before heading east to Kansas.

All photos by Samuel Taipale.

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On Monday, September 26th we held a community screening of Sex+Money in Sioux Falls, South Dakota at the Avera Education Center. There were a lot of graduate students from the Masters of Social Work Program at University of South Dakota, so it was a crowd that will most likely come into contact with the most vulnerable populations of their communities.  The panel after the film included South Dakota Senator Joni Cutler, the main sponsor of the Senate Bill that made human trafficking a crime in South Dakota; Elizabeth Talbot, the Director of the Masters of Social Work program at University of South Dakota, who has spent many years of her life researching human trafficking; Ashley, a representative of Be Free Ministries, an organization that works with victims of trafficking in the Sioux Falls area; and Chris Mathew, the Director of Program Development for The GOD’S CHILD Project and its human trafficking program, The Institute for Trafficked, Exploited, & Missing Persons (ITEMP).  While many people might disregard South Dakota when thinking of sex trafficking, panelists reminded the audience that even in their rural state, sex trafficking is still a serious issue.  With the tourism generated by hunting, and the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, not to mention the constant flow of homeless/runaway youth passing through on Interstate 90, unfortunately sex trafficking is flourishing in South Dakota.

(Panel discussion in Sioux Falls, SD.)

Even though in the last year South Dakota passed legislation to make human trafficking illegal, they had difficulty in passing a more specific Safe Harbor law that would have identified any prostituted person under 16 years of age as a victim, rather than a criminal.  Mathew noted how even if Safe Harbor laws were passed, as it stands now there would not be enough services in place (basic necessities like shelter and beds…) to care for the victims.  He went on to say that the Midwest and Plains states are in need of more groups like Be Free Ministries, who make themselves available for those who might escape from lives of commercial sexual exploitation.

(Panel Discussion at University of Nebraska.)

On Friday September 30th, we shared our film at University of Nebraska as part of The 2011 Interdisciplinary Conference on Human Trafficking that ran from September 29th through October 1st. After the film, the panel included many of the same people who served on the panel at Iowa State University a few weeks before: US Attorney Stephen Patrick O’Meara, Detective John Focht from Council Bluffs Police Department, and an FBI Special Agent.  Additionally we were honored to have Siddharth Kara sit in on the panel.  With 11 years (and counting) of self-financed research on global human trafficking, Mr. Kara is the first Fellow on Human Trafficking at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.  He has also authored Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Day Slavery, and is in the process of writing another book on similar subject matter.  Mr. Kara shares his knowledge throughout our film, and his insight has been extremely helpful, as he is a strong believer in the necessity of creating an informed abolitionist movement.

(Siddharth Kara.)

In the discussion, it was clear that even though there is a constant need for greater cohesion in the anti-trafficking movement, US Attorney O’Meara, Detective Focht, and the Special Agent showed at least a glimpse of what can happen in our country when groups of Cialis drug online http://www.canadianpharmacy365.net/product/cialis-generic/ in our communities.  Regarding the different forces that would motivate the profiteers behind sex trafficking, Mr. Kara said, “Erectile dysfunction treating with generic Cialis.”  Furthermore, Kara called for our law enforcement to “bring cost and risk to bear against the offenders.”

(The Badlands in South Dakota.)

Over the weekend, as we headed towards Bozeman, Montana for an event at Montana State University on Monday, we were blessed to pass through the beautiful country in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.  We made some quick stops at Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Old Faithful, and observed different animals we saw along the roads within Yellowstone.  It would have been great to explore the beautiful reserve of land and wildlife more extensively, but we’ll just need to return for more sightseeing when we aren’t under the constraints of a tight schedule.

(The bus at Mt. Rushmore.)

(Wildlife in the Badlands of South Dakota.)

(Yellowstone Lake.)

(A hot spring near Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park.)

(Buffalo stare down.)

By the time Monday, October 3rd, came around, it was time to screen the film at Montana State University, in partnership with the Amnesty International student group on their campus.  After the film, the narrators (this author included) all served on a panel to field audience questions about trafficking.  Many of our past panel experiences have felt awkward; but thankfully, Monday’s panel was significantly more natural.   Though we still feel like we have a lot to learn, we were confident in passing along the information, stories, and concepts that have helped us in our own personal journeys of learning how to combat sex trafficking in the US.

(Autumn, Tim, Sarah-Jo, Scott, and Morgan serving on the panel at Montana State University in Bozeman.)

On Tuesday, October 4th, we drove a ways up the road from Bozeman to show the film at Meadow View Community Church in Missoula, Montana.  The church is already aware of domestic minor sex trafficking, as they’ve partnered with Pat McCollough, the former President of the restoration home highlighted in our film, Streetlight Phoenix.  Meadow View had already heard information and stories from Mr. McCollough, and other former victims who have come to speak at the church with him; so in a way our film served as a supplement to what they already know of this challenge in our country.  Talking to members of the congregation, it was burdensome to hear the stories of past abuses (as we hear with most groups,) but it was uplifting to hear how even formerly-hurting people in their church are learning to move on to a place of reaching out and helping others in their area who are still desperate to have their own stories salvaged.

(Isaac Gill and Jasen Chung at Meadow View Community Church in Missoula, MT.)

(Isaac Gill.)

Our team is currently in Portland, as we’ve had screenings in Bend and Portland over the last two days.  We’re doing our best to enjoy the little bit of time we have in the Northwest before heading towards Boise for our screenings there at the beginning of next week.

All photos by Samuel Taipale.

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