By KIT B. FASSLER
Sex trafficking is happening in Tucson.
Educating the public about that fact was the key purpose of a gathering held on March 24 at West Campus co-sponsored by the Interdisciplinary Studies Club and the Social Services Student Organization.
After showing a documentary film, the groups hosted a community discussion. Most attendees were Pima Community College students.
The documentary, titled “A Path Appears,” was produced by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Panel moderators were Dianna Repp, faculty advisor, Sheena Hokanson, ISC president, and Genesis Mora Delhayo, SSSO president.
The panel highlighted circumstances surrounding girls who have been taken into sex trafficking.
Some of their main points included:
• Sex trafficking is a form of slavery.
• Sex trafficking is a tough criminal enterprise.
• Many girls disappear permanently and their names are changed.
• A girl on the run can be taken by a manipulative pimp.
• Runaways ages 10-18, both poor and middle class, fall prey to traffickers.
• Victims are forced into prostitution and there are threats involved.
• Victims are not bad people.
Students participating in the discussion gave suggestions to help girls in this situation. Some of their ideas included:
• Expand education and community involvement.
• Make parents and girls aware that sex trafficking happens in our community.
• Emphasize that young girls need consistent support from their parents.
• Make young girls aware not to trust strangers.
• Teach young girls that pimps can approach them after school or at parties, and in places like shopping malls or public parking lots.
Every dark tunnel has a bright ending. The film documented how Illinois’ Cook County pioneered “National John’s Day” with a theme of “Shaming John.” On the day spotlighted, several men were arrested after attempting sex with young girls.
Nonprofit organizations such as the Mary Magdalene Project, FAIR Girls, Fairfund and GEMS: Girl Education and Mentoring Services have stepped up to transform the lives of the victims.
Their goals include providing housing and jobs to restore hope for victims, and to help them find their own new path.
For more information, visit pbs.org/independentlens/path-appears.