(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.)*
Photos by Samuel Taipale and *Timothy C. DykRead More