Worldwide, nearly 25 million people are victims of human trafficking, a criminal enterprise that generates $150 billion each year — more than the combined annual profits of Exxon, Microsoft, BP, Samsung and Apple, according to The Human Trafficking Institute.
In the United States, California is one of the major centers of human trafficking, a modern-day form of slavery in which vulnerable people are coerced into sexual exploitation or forced labor.
In recognition of January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, a coalition of UC Merced organizations will present “California’s Forgotten Children,” an award-winning documentary featuring survivors of human trafficking.
“Human Trafficking is not just a large urban city issue. It’s a Merced and UC Merced issue,” said Yesenia Curiel, director of UC Merced Campus Advocacy Resources & Education. “We need to bring awareness because our neighbors and friends can be targeted. We can all play a role in ending human trafficking.”
“California’s Forgotten Children,” directed and produced by UCLA alumna Melody Miller, will be screened on Jan. 28 at UC Merced’s Arts & Computational Sciences Building, Room 120. The free event will begin at 5:30 p.m. Attendees who donate $10 or more will receive a human trafficking awareness T-shirt, with funds benefiting Valley Crisis Center’s program to help trafficking survivors.
The 2018 documentary recounts the true stories of girls and boys who were commercially sexually exploited in California. The survivors’ stories show how any child can be exploited, regardless of ethnicity or social-economic background. The film was screened before the U.S. Senate last year and has won several honors, including Best Documentary at the SoHo International Film Festival.
After the film, a panel discussion will take place with Gameelah Alsamah, the Human Trafficking Victim Program specialist at the Valley Crisis Center; Madera Police Lt. Daniel Foss, founder of OLIVE, a non-profit that supports trafficking survivors; and Janet Ruscoe, the vice president and chief nurse executive officer at Mercy Medical Center and Merced Dignity Health Human Trafficking Counsel Chairman.
The screening is open to students, staff and faculty. Community members interested in attending should reserve a seat by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Presentation of “California’s Forgotten Children” is sponsored by Campus Advocacy Resources & Education (CARE), the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on the Status of Women; and Violence Outreach Informing Our Campus with Educational Solutions (VOICES).