Greetings again from the darkness. Director, Jain monk, war veteran, and sexual abuse survivor Sadhvi Siddhali Shree follows up her 2017 documentary, STOPPING TRAFFIC: THE MOVEMENT TO END SEX-TRAFFICKING, with a focus on the rare survivors/escapees of the horrific global issue labeled sex trafficking. The initial statistics she provides state 45 million are trafficked each year, and only about 1% ever escape or are rescued. We learn this “industry” generates approximately $150 billion (with a b) in annual profit.
The film allows five victims to bravely tell their story, concentrating not just on the ordeal they survived, but also what has happened since. Their stories are about healing and recovery, and we hear from three women in the United States, one from Ethiopia, and one from India. Their stories are different, yet they share the similarities of being forced into a tragic and dark underworld.
The women are often asked, “Why didn’t you just leave?”, and their answers revolve around such things as fear, shame, and violence. Threats against themselves and their families were commonplace. One of the survivors defines Sex Trafficking as ‘sex for money through force, fraud, and coercion.” Another revisits the condo where she was violently attacked for wanting to leave. She re-enacts that night and we see photographic evidence of the brutal beating she endured.
Director Shree tells the details of her sexual abuse at age 6, and we learn the target age for traffickers can be 12 to 17. With their pain often invisible on the outside, the women discuss what they have done while attempting to rebuild some semblance of a “normal” life – always looking over their shoulder and living with the memories. Two key points emerge and those are opening more shelters for victims and training law enforcement on how best to treat those who have been sex trafficked … contrasting from runaways, for example. Therapy is obviously crucial, and what is most important is keeping discussions going so that, for as long as sex-trafficking exists, we are addressing the prevention, the rescue, and the treatment of victims.
In limited theaters on March 25, 2022 and on VOD beginning April 15, 2022