'Sex + Money': The Domestic Side of a Global Problem
What struck me the most about the film Sex + Money: A National Search for Human Worth, which screened at Portland State University this month, is how young.
Thirteen- and fourteen-year olds, and some as young as eleven, being led into sex trafficking.
I have twin sons who just turned 14.
The PSU event was one of two Oregon screenings in the 50-state tour that the Sex + Money filmmakers are offering through December 17. The comprehensive documentary covers domestic sex trafficking and the modern-day abolitionist movement to stop it.
The screening drew 300 people in a city known for its livability, as well as its sex trafficking problem. In 2010, Diane Sawyer and Dan Rather reported on the trafficking of humans in the city. In fact, some of the footage in the Sex + Money film was shot in Portland.
Screening attendees included students, activists, social workers, and lawmakers. Jamie Broadbent, from the child welfare division at the Department of Human Services, Lynn Haxton, attorney with Youth Rights and Justice, and U.S. Attorney Kemp Strickland led a question-and-answer panel session after the film.
The seed for the film was planted in Morgan Perry, now 24, while she was a communications and mass media major at the University of the Nations, a Youth With a Mission (YWAM) educational institute in Hawaii.
She and four other students were studying under the YWAM nonprofit PhotoGenX, which uses photography and media to raise awareness on social justice issues. They traveled to 20 countries to research, write about, and photograph the issue of international sex trafficking.
After returning home, they documented their experience in the book Sex + Money: A Global Search for Human Worth, published in 2008. While writing the book, they came to realize that the issue was in their own backyard.
"I listened to a pastor from Atlanta share a story about a girl locked in a dog cage in Phoenix, and that verse in Matthew 7 about seeing a speck in another person's eye when you have a plank in your own, came to mind," Perry said at the screening. "I became convicted about the issue of sex trafficking in the United States and decided to use my background in film to produce the documentary."
In 2009, she convened the same photojournalists from her overseas project to begin a researching trafficking in the United States. Perry was 21.
Two years later, they had the DVD Sex + Money: A National Search for Human Worth in hand. "We then hit the road," said Perry, the film's executive director. She and 16 YWAM enthusiasts are now traveling cross-country in an RV to show the film and lead discussions.
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