CNN’s “Selling the Girl Next Door” – A Reflection
by Emily Schroder, UNF Interfaith Center Intern, Better Together Vice President
On Thursday, September 12th at 8 pm, students began entering the auditorium in the student union. I believe that many of them were not expecting what proceeded to be shown on the projector screen- I surely wasn’t. Although I’m a student intern at the interfaith Center and vice president of Better Together- both of which are focusing on an anti-human trafficking campaign this year- it had been a long time since I’d witnessed media portraying the issue. This specific media outlet raised two different reactions in me: one of desperation and inspiration, and one of disappointment in the media.
I will begin with the disappointment.
Although the documentary succeeded in moving its viewers and illuminating the horrifying crime of human trafficking, it did so in a manner that I found unfair. The 13-year-old girl who had been lured into the sex trafficking world was portrayed not as a helpless victim of this awful system, but as a juvenile delinquent who ended up being coerced into sex trafficking as a result of her own drug abuse and teenage rebelliousness. The commentary from the girl’s mother seemed to especially focus on the girl’s fault in the matter. Even if her “bad behavior” did lead to her vulnerability and eventual coercion into the sex trade, she was still coerced. She was still taken advantage of. There was still a grown, adult man who convinced and forced a child to perform sexual acts for profit. Whether her previous actions aided in creating her current situation, she was still used by criminals. The problem is not that teenage girls are angsty and make “bad decisions” that put them in a vulnerable position- the problem is the existence and success of the vultures that are eagerly anticipating such an opportunity to seize.
That being said, the desperation and inspiration derived from three themes that night:
1.Perpetrators of the sex trade- buyers and sellers of other people’s bodies- are told to refrain from the trade because they’ll be punished, not because what they’re doing is hurting the women they are buying and selling. Desperation because this is so backwards, and inspiration to change the focus of the discourse of sex crimes.
2.The prevalence of sex trafficking in the United States. Desperation that this is still happening here (and more than ever) through the use of the social media and other technological advances, and inspiration to use that same power of social media and technology to battle human trafficking.
3.The response of students (and faculty) during the subsequent group discussion. Desperation that many of us felt sorrowful, angry, and confused, and inspiration in the expressed wishes to join the fight against human trafficking and use our own individual knowledge and skill sets to promote change in the world.
If you were one of the students or faculty members who joined us that night, thank you for coming and for sharing your support and/or your thoughts. As a member of the interfaith community and Better Together, as a participant in the anti-human trafficking campaign, and as a female who has certainly experienced both fear and vulnerability, I am committed to raising awareness and promoting change in a culture that is still plagued by the issue of human trafficking. I encourage those of you who are also inspired to fight against human trafficking to do so. Come to our info sessions. Come to our events. Learn, volunteer, and spread awareness with us. We can and will make a change.