Tonight, Monday, March 23, 2015, is the screening of “A Path Appears,” which is a documentary of women’s empowerment. This documentary was created by the producers of the documentary, “Half the Sky,” Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, who guest lectured at Lehigh in February. After the screening, there will be a discussion with Becky Sullivan from the Valley Against Sex Trafficking, Margie Lauter from CARE USA, and Holona Ochs, a political science professor at Lehigh.
Becky Sullivan added quickly for audience members to remember self-care, since the documentary was intense.
Savannah Boylan, ’15, now wrapped up the panel discussion.
Margie Lauter said that when we watch a really impactful video like this, we still need to ask, “Who wasn’t represented?”
Margie Lauter said to also focus on people who might be more vulnerable than others, such as LGBT people. She brought up the International Violence Against Women Act, “which addresses the way the U.S. implements all of its programming around gender-based violence.” She advised students to promote advocacy of this act to sign congress members onto the bill.
Becky Sullivan said that students should educate themselves. She also said that they need to change the ways they speak about things and the language they use, because that affects our perceptions. For example, she said to think about how we use the phrase “pimp my ride.” She said, “Our sphere of influence– we have so much social capital. Post about it on Facebook.”
Aftan Baldwin, a graduate student involved in the Global Union, asked what we can do regularly to help these issues.
“90% of women who are involved in prostitution, whether they were trafficked or not, were abused as a child,” said Becky Sullivan.
Holona Ochs observed that American culture “sexualizes young girls and infantalizes women,” celebrating pimp culture. She said that we need to focus on “trying to get men to be less hateful toward women.”
We don’t advocate for street advocacy, Beck Sullivan said, because it could endanger the women if their pimp sees. She recommends that concerned people cal the local tip-line or police. Here is information about the national hot line: National Human Trafficking Resource Center.
“It doesn’t always look like what we think,” said Becky Sullivan. “A lot of it is online– it’s moved indoors. You don’t see street prostitution like you used to.”
Becky Sullivan said that you should looking for warning signs, such as young women having older boyfriends who are isolating them. She said to look for red flags in their sexual health, such as multiple STDs.
“What kind of signs should we look for?” asked an audience member.
Another student asked them to share some statistics about the Lehigh Valley. Becky Sullivan said that 1 out of 5 service providers said that sex trafficking is an issue in the Lehigh Valley, adding that a lot of the data comes from anecdotes. She said that she thinks that awareness of prostitution is increasing, and prosecution has increased 300% since Sands Casino opened.
Margie Lauter also responded, saying that globally, a lot of CARE’s work involves getting men and boys to become advocates against sex trafficking and talking about their role.
Becky Sullivan said that an act was just passed, Pennsylvania Act 105, that focuses on the victimization involved in sex trafficking and increases the penalties for johns. “It’s been very encouraging to see the change,” she said.
“Near the end of the film, they were talking about how when women are taken in, they suffer the harsher end of the penal system. Is there anything being done to correct that?” asked one audience member.
The panel is now opening up to questions from the audience.
“Pimps will tell you it’s easier to run women, since the penalties are lower,” Holona Ochs said while comparing prostitution to drug dealing.
“Homelessness in the U.S. has gone up 300% since 2011,” Holona Ochs said. “Supervision is one of the issues,” involved in sex trafficking of young women from lower-income families, she said.
Holona Ochs says that young women in poverty face a greater risk of being sex trafficked.
Holona Ochs adds that she thinks it might have been more powerful for the women who were trafficked to create their own videos, instead of the documentary being created by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.
Beck Sullivan also mentioned that men and boys are also exploited through sex trafficking.
Becky Sullivan says that they are trying to find a way to educate the people who are trying to buy sex about the exploitation that is involved in the system.
She also brought attention to the power relations between the different people involved in sex trafficking.
First, Margie Lauter said, “It’s always kind of an issue when you see a journalist using people’s stories to depict an issue. So we need to acknowledge that even Nicholas Kristof has an agenda, even if it’s a noble agenda.” She says that she wishes that he acknowledged that and that it was part of the discussion.
Finally, Holona Ochs, a political science professor at Lehigh, says that her research focuses on the shift in the U.S. from punishing victims to social entrepreneurship that can “change governance and the way we interact with one another.”
“As Blake Lively said, it’s really unbelievable when you realize it’s happening here,” said Margie Lauter.
Next, Margie Lauter from CARE says that they do a lot of work around gender-based violence, working with local police departments, religious leaders, and other people within communities to increase advocacy and to build support for victims.
Becky Sullivan from Vast introduces the organization, saying that they focus on awareness, prevention and aftercare. She says that the film so accurately depicts what is going on the Lehigh Valley.
Savannah Boyland, ’15, introduced the panelists and says that they will talk about the work they do.
The discussion will begin shortly with Becky Sullivan from the Valley Against Sex Trafficking, Margie Lauter
from CARE USA, and Holona Ochs, a political science professor at Lehigh.
The documentary now ended.
“The debasement that sex trafficking represents towards women is a rebuke to us all,” says Hillary Clinton.
“It’s a targeted, holistic solution,” says Sheryl WuDunn of Magdalene and Thistle Farm.
Magdalene is a home for young women who were trafficked, which Nicholas Kristof and Ashley Judd visit.
“Even if they do escape that life, they often have no refuge to turn to,” says Sheryl WuDunn of young women who are trafficked.
National Day of Johns Arrest is part of this sting operation to target johns who purchase sex.
One man tried to justify his actions by saying that he only visits prostitutes “when his back feels bad,” since “chiropractors cost too much.”
“The men came streaming in,” Nicholas Kristof said. “It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.” The police arrested them one by one as they fell for the undercover cop’s online prostitution ad.
Nicholas Kristof is with the police while they wait for the man to come to the hotel room.
Police are now focusing on punishing those who purchase sex by using undercover officers.
“One way to make a difference is to go after the johns,” says Nicholas Kristof.
Nicholas Kristof says that men who are caught purchasing prostitution are fined, whereas the women who are caught selling sex are sent to prison.
“I personally never would have known that they were prostitutes,” says Malin Akerman.
Part Three, with Malin Akerman in Chicago
“There are studies that say that within 48 hours that a child runs away, they will be approached by someone who wants to sexually exploit them.”
“Police in any of these states could have found her,” Nicholas Kristof says of the original missing woman. The police are overworked and don’t have the resources they need, he said.
Another young woman is reunited with her mother, who admitted to using drugs and abusing alcohol before her daughter ran away. Now that she has stopped using and her daughter returned, their relationship is complex but strengthening.
“I just want them to find her. She’s out there in danger,” says the young woman’s mom.
One of the young women from the My Life, My Choice organization went missing, and the staff as well as police are actively searching for her now.
“There are people out there who are willing to buy people,” says a representative from the sex trafficking force of the local police department in Boston.
Blake Lively said, “To see Savannah was to see the face of the reality in our country. And that was profound for me.”
“Society’s idea of what a woman is who sells her body, you don’t think of someone like Savannah,” says Blake Lively. “You don’t think of them as little girls.”
Savannah, a 17 year old girl, was trafficked when 13 and “truly enslaved, in the sense of that word,” says Nicholas Kristof.
“When a girl runs away, she’s so vulnerable,” says Nicholas Kristof. “And the pimps just hone in on that.”
My Life, My Choice is the organization Nicholas Kristof and Blake Lively visit, which provides counsel for young women who have been exploited through sex trafficking.
Blake Lively is the next actress involved in the documentary. She says that before “A Path Appears,” she was completely ignorant to the reality of sex trafficking in the U.S.
Sheryl WuDunn says that the defenders of prostitution claim that the people involved in prostitution aren’t victims, that they are consenting adults, but this is not reality she says. Many of them are victims of sex trafficking– runways and young, exploited children.
“God, she used to be so beautiful,” Shana says of a young prostitute they see in the street. “She’s messed up so bad.”
One pimp boasts that we takes care of his prostitutes by providing them with V-8 drinks every morning and pedicures once month. He also provides them with their illegal substance of choice.
Another prostitute says that whenever she ran away from her pimp, he would always find her.
Shana says that she worked from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. while she was a prostitute.
Ashley Judd is from Nashville, Tennessee, the area they are filming in. Shana drove with Ashley to show a different, hidden perspective of her hometown.
“Everyone knew what was going on,” says Shana about the police’s knowledge about her pimp’s activities. She says that it took the police ten years before arresting him.
Ashley Judd says that addiction and sexual abuse make many women vulnerable to sex trafficking. “That’s Shana’s story,” she says, “but that’s also unfortunately a universal story.”
“I would say that Shana is my hero,” says Ashley Judd.
Many of the victims of sex trafficking are colored women from lower-income families, Kristof says. However, he says that some are from middle and upper income families. All of the women in this segment are survivors of sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse such as incest.
Ashley Judd is the actress working with Nicholas Kristof during this segment of the documentary to bring awareness to the issue of sex trafficking.
“It’s not that their bad people, they’re just lost,” says another prostitute of fellow prostitutes. “It’s degrading, it’s humiliating,” she says.
“Pillars of the community, everyone from A-Z” says Shana of the men who exploited her.
“Part One: In The Life” starts in Nashville, Tennessee. A woman named Shana says that her grandfather was her trafficker.
First, they are focusing on sex trafficking in the U.S., something Sheryl WuDunn says is a huge problem here that not many citizens are aware of.
Hillary Clinton speaks about how inspiring Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof are for facing these issues.
“There are good reasons for us to look at these situations and say, ‘What can I do to help?'” Clooney says. “And there’s a lot that you can do.”
“You can see every one of these problems in every country, including the United States,” says George Clooney when starting to speak about sex trafficking.
Now, the first section of “A Path Appears” is beginning.
“Sheryl and I are showing real human stories,” says Nicholas Kristof in the introduction of the documentary. “We now understand how a tiny intervention can have a transformative impact on a child a generation later.”
Savannah Boylan, ’15, a Global Union representative, introduced the event. The trailer for the documentary, “A Path Appears,” is now being shown