The growing industry of sex trafficking is now being recognized as a global epidemic. According to more recent analytics, an estimated 800,000 women and children from America are trafficked across international borders each year. To expose the ongoing tragedies that result from sex trafficking across the world, but more specifically the U.S. Filmmakers Jane Wells and John-Keith Wasson set out on a mission to uncover different perspectives on the $32 billion dollar/year industry. From interviews with current procurers (pimps), disturbing interviews with previous victims of the industry, as well as startling statistics, Wells and Wasson give a behind-the-scenes look into a booming international business founded on greed, hate, manipulation and fear.
The Story of Danielle Douglas: Tricked begins by introducing Danielle Douglas, a former prostitute who tells her story of how being an 18-year-old girl in Boston unexpectedly became a nightmare within the first few weeks of arrival. Danielle, (where she was from) was excited to move away from home and begin her college experience at Northeastern in Boston, Massachusetts. A few weeks into her first semester at school, she met a man who appeared to showing appreciation by “wining and dining”, as well as purchasing her gifts regularly and making her feel wanted. Shortly after meeting him, the man threatened the safety of her family, and after brutally beating her, forced her into prostitution overnight. As the film progresses and we hear additional viewpoints from psychologists, customers of prostitutes, and former sex slaves, we are continually brought back to Danielle discussing more of her story, which gradually gets more despairing. While there are plenty of convincing facts from the educated men and women in the film, the most frequent testimonies are from current pimps, who are not shy in hiding their attitudes toward women.
Use of Environment & Lighting to Portray Pimps vs. Victims: While pimps in the film are intentionally covered in dark lighting during their discussions to conceal their identity, with their voice deepened to persuade a further level of eeriness, all other characters are shown in a completely different light. The directors intentionally changed the interview setting to menacing, and added low piano keys to convey the harmful and heinous nature of pimps and customers of prostitutes onscreen. Not to say what pimps are doing to women is justified in any way, but it is important to note when watching documentaries, almost every documentary made is deliberately bias; the intent to show one side of an argument. The reason for this is obvious; the viewer becomes much more compelled to the perspective of the documentary if the filmmakers can successfully drive home the point they are trying to make in their one-sided argument. The idea was to clearly paint the pimps as the perpetrators, which they are while there was a different setting for the victims, showing other women victims who were former sex slaves walking peacefully through a park on a sunny day. There were also numerous scenes presenting former sex slaves at rehabilitation centers, helping more recent victims recover and reprogramming them to go back into the world. The central idea through the cinematography was to illustrate the criminals as careless degenerates and the victims as wounded warriors now recovering.
One element missing from the film, likely on purpose, were interviews with prostitutes currently involved in the business. One reason for this could be because Jane Wells and John-Keith Wasson It would have been powerful and eye-opening to see a prostitute who is currently enrolled in the business and how they feel about it. The film’s objective was clearly to highlight the misery endured by those who were kidnapped and manipulated into the business. However, those who volunteered themselves into the business and are currently searching for a way out may have stories that could help support the film’s main idea and message: deception. While interviewing pimps, customers, law enforcement, and victims, the absence of actively engaged prostitutes weakens the film, limiting angles of perspective.
Commonalities of Sex Trafficking in the United States: The documentary was filmed in the United States, conducting interviews in New York City, Chicago, Massachusetts, Las Vegas, Denver and Washington D.C. In New York City and Las Vegas in particular, where prostitution is on the rise, most Americans don’t realize the frequency of recruitment. While men and boys make up a small percentage of the total number of reported sex slaves in America, female victims make up 98% of trafficking for sexual exploitation. Many female victims are younger than expected, recruited into prostitution at the ages of 16-17. After targeting specific victims who seem vulnerable, sex traffickers use manipulation tactics that including abuse, threats, lies, empty promises, and debt bondage, keeping victims trapped in the sex industry. These victims are usually teenage runaways, often drug addicts, who pimps stalk for enough time to identify them as manipulative, so the girls get used as primary targets.
Rising industry on internet: A major contributing factor to the rise of prostitution is the internet. As shown in Tricked, escort service websites are easily available to anyone with internet access, and those using the website are directed to type in code words, making the meet up location more difficult to trace. In an interview with law enforcement, one Denver police officer stated that “Some of the codes generated on these websites can be difficult for even the FBI to decode.” In a new era of technology, sex trafficking is by no means diminishing; if anything, it is getting increasingly intricate to infiltrate, even on a federal level. An incredibly disheartening portion of the film focuses on young female sex slaves, who in court will refuse to testify against their pimp, even after being offered protection from law enforcement. The manipulation methods used by pimps keep many women silenced, believing not only that their life is in danger if they testify, but that they have nowhere else to go if they do.
The goal of Jane Wells and John-Keith Wasson’s non-profit film production company 3Generations © is to raise awareness to human rights issues. In the Shadow of Fear, Lost in Lebanon, Night Will Fall, and the other films they have directed have all had a message: if you see something, say something. Unfortunately, in the case of any issue involving human rights, people usually don’t take any action to stop the epidemic until it becomes a problem of their own. Instead of only worrying about ourselves, and only worrying about our own worlds and daily routines getting interrupted, let’s take some affirmative action. In the film Tricked, there is a segment relaying a message to law enforcement about how to identify when a prostitution ring may be operating within a specific area. All the small things we do, whether it is making a film, or creating an international group such as Amnesty International Charity, which raises money to help fight the problem of sex trafficking, it all comes down to everyone having an option to get involved. We as the people can step out of the shadows instead of waiting for a friend or family member to be affected, which will inevitably lead to a feeling of guilt and evil infiltrating our lives.
Hernandez, Maria. “Global Sex Trafficking Fact Sheet.” Equality Now. N.p., 18 July 2016. Web. 09 Dec. 2016
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