“Very Young Girls” — I Had Answers!

very young girls

Scene from "Very Young Girls"

On Thursday night I was lucky enough to be asked to sit on a panel for an event for the Hadassah Project. They were screening the film, Very Young Girls. Following the screening, the panel would assemble for an open forum for guests to ask questions and discuss sex trafficking of young girls.

I was joined on the panel by Charisma de los Reyes of San Diego Youth Services and Lisa Covington, who is a professor of Women’s Studies at San Diego State University.

I love sitting on panels with Charisma because she might be one of the most amazing public speakers I have ever heard. Seriously… I think she could have a crowd chomping at the bit to do laundry if she wanted to.

This was the first time I had met Lisa and it was great to hear a fresh point of view on the film from such an intelligent woman.

So we started the evening by introducing ourselves and talking a bit about who we are and what we do.

The Hadassah Project is a new non-profit that aims to empower young women. The founder of the Hadassah Project, Chida, is super rad. I had met her on Facebook a few days before the event. It was great to meet her in person and exchange hugs and love. She is a very strong woman and I know she will do some great things.

Anyways, once we introduced ourselves, the film played. I seriously want to take this audience with me everywhere I go to screen this film. They were so into it and so vocal. Barbie and I were sitting in the back. She mentioned to me how different it was from the screening that we attended in Hollywood where people were very quiet and seemingly horrified.

One audience was not “better” than the other but it was so interesting to see the people in the room react because they knew what the girls were talking about.

The audience was comprised of people from southeast San Diego which is a hot spot for sex trafficking recruitment.

Many of these people had personally experienced some of what happened in the film and it was interesting to watch them nod in agreement with certain statements or talk crap on the stupid pimps in the video.

After the film was through we sat in front and I told my story. It usually takes about 45 minutes for me to get through the entire thing, though it never seems to last more than 5 minutes.

I tried to speak directly to the young girls in the audience because they are where my heart is at. I always want them to know that what they experiencing is not “weird” and that someone does understand.

There were a lot of young girls in the room. There were also parents and social workers and other activists. It was a really good turn out so when I was done speaking there were A LOT of questions.

Some of the audience members were angry at the injustice they had just witnessed in the film and, of course, I cannot blame them. I feel the same way every time I watch it.

But something was different this time than in many of the panels I have done before. This time I had answers for them.

Questions popped up like “Why isn’t law enforcement treating these girls like victims and what is being done to change that?” and “How are we going to get to these kids before the pimps do?”.

And to these questions I was able to give tangible directives that are being carried out. When I first started in this movement, I would have had to say “Well…we need to train law enforcement and we need to get into the schools”.

On Thursday night I was able to explain what our law enforcement is doing and how they are interacting with victims. That they are bringing in outside help to work with the victims and are learning about what they had always viewed as “underage prostitution” so that they can develop protocols. I was able to tell them that one of San Diego’s law enforcement agents had begun that very day training all of the judges in California on sex trafficking.

I was able to tell them that school employees are now going to be trained on sex trafficking and that we have a video that can be shown to educate kids and parents about the indoctrination process.

I was able to tell them what Californians Against Slavery is doing to push through their initiative to prosecute pimps and protect victims. I was able to tell them about the services offered by Generate Hope for girls leaving the life and about the survivor group we  recently developed through STARS to help girls deal with being in and coming out of the life.

nikki junkerI was able to tell them about how we had molded public opinion and continue to do so through the removal of Craigslist adult services and the partial clemency of Sara Kruzan (and that we were not going to stop until she was free).

It was amazing! Where once there was just anger and fear, there was now a solution.

I thought about the past year and everybody who has worked so hard to stop what was shown in Very Young Girls.

It really is just amazing how much has been accomplished and that is nothing compared to what is going to continue to happen! I think I might honestly be one of the luckiest people on earth to be a part of it.

Nikki Junker
More Than A Purpose

Published by the LA Progressive on July 4, 2011
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