From the Mountains to the Prairies
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
All Photos by Samuel Taipale.
Timothy C. Dyk was one of the narrators from the Sex+Money film. He is now touring around the United States with the rest of the team, and working on a degree in Global Development at Seattle Pacific University. Read more from this author