Colorado-based human trafficking documentary screens on campus

trickedEach month thousands of victims across the country enter the sex trade to satisfy America’s $3 billion-a-year sex trafficking industry.

It’s an industry fueled by greed, fantasy, and the commercial and sexual exploitation of American children. Some opt in by choice. But most have no such luxury, falling prey to the elaborate schemes of predators. It’s a modern-day form of slavery.

According to filmmaker Jane Wells in a 2013 interview with HuffPost Live, sex trafficking is “a dirty little secret that people don’t want to know about.” She thinks most people just prefer to think of it as a problem that happens overseas, or to people over the border, not something that happens in our communities.

But the documentary Tricked, which Wells spent three years making with John-Keith Wasson, exposes the sex trafficking crimes taking place in cities across the country through the narratives of women prostitutes, their families, the law enforcement trying to stop it, and the pimps that help it continue. The Department of Communication Studies at Colorado State University is hosting a free screening of Tricked on Monday, April 6, at 5:30 p.m. in the Lory Student Center Theater.

Tricked follows Denver police squad Sgt. Dan Steele and his colleagues in their dogged pursuit of traffickers and devotion to rescuing victims. In Las Vegas, ground zero for escort services, Las Vegas Police detectives work to hit traffickers where it hurts them most, by seizing their financial assets. In New York, Colorado and Las Vegas, brash and unrepentant johns reveal the how, why, when and where of what they call “a hobby.”

From Sgt. Steele to the survivors, Tricked weaves together dramatic, disparate, interdependent characters and provides an unflinching view of the world of sex trafficking, the almost incomprehensible and disturbing bonds between the traffickers and victims and the seemingly insurmountable challenges faced by law enforcement nationwide.

Tricked is absolutely heartbreaking and frightening at the same time,” says senior Madeline Gallegos, who watched the film this semester in a Communication and Anti-Human Trafficking course taught by Dr. Karrin Anderson. “It’s terrifying to think that trafficking is occurring all around us, but it’s even more distressing knowing that there are victims and survivors all around us and yet it’s an issue we hardly give ample attention as a whole.”

Anderson and her students hope to change that by hosting a post-screening community discussion on the issues surrounding trafficking in Larimer County, Colorado, and across the nation. Center for Public Deliberation student facilitators will lead the discussion, which is open to all attendees.

What you need to know:

• The federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) 2000 defines a human trafficking victim as a person induced to perform labor or a commercial sex act through force, fraud, or coercion. Any person under age 18 who performs a commercial sex act is considered a victim of human trafficking, regardless of whether force, fraud, or coercion was present.

• Punishment for traffickers and buyers is minimal. Buyers are rarely charged or convicted for solicitation or pandering, let alone statutory rape or child endangerment. Often, it is the sexually exploited child who ends up in jail for “prostitution,” despite not being of age to provide consent.

• Learn more about Tricked:

This article was written by Carol Busch.