The film takes place far away in Nepal and India, but to local activists the issue hits close to home.
“It’s very enlightening, I think,” said RoseMary Regalbuto who is bringing the movie “SOLD” to Santa Monica for free screenings next month. “I think people are not aware of how much of a problem this is. This is a way to open their eyes.”
In the movie, 13-year-old Lakshmi leaves her home in rural Nepal and ends up in a gritty brothel in Kolkata. The 2014 film comes from Academy Award winners Jeffrey Brown (director) and Emma Thompson (executive producer) who hoped to inspire a global movement to address the word’s fastest growing business: sex trafficking. It is based on a novel by the same name by Patricia McCormick.
Santa Monica Rotarian Regalbuto hopes the film will raise awareness about the problem of sex trafficking here in the Los Angeles area. She has gotten the rights to screen the film and is bringing it to locations all over Santa Monica for free. Panels discussing the local impact of sex trafficking will follow some screenings.
Regalbuto says awareness is crucial to the cause.
“If people are aware they can see the signs of trafficking and they can help that victim,” Regalbuto said.
In Los Angeles, underage girls and boys are frequently advertised on the Internet but are difficult for law enforcement to track down. For that reason, the odds of a victim being rescued is just one in 100, according to the organization ERASE child trafficking. The group estimates in the United States alone over 100,000 kids are trafficked into slavery.
In Santa Monica, the City Attorney’s Office has reached out to 48 local businesses where victims might pass to post flyers with hotline information victims can call.
So far, Urgent Care centers, bars, massage parlors, bus stations, train stations are required to participate and post the flyers, according to Deputy City Attorney Gary Rhoades. However, after receiving the posters in October, only 25 out of the 48 business owners are currently in compliance according to a recent audit by the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST).
“Studies have shown these posters increase the amount of reporting,” Rhoades said. “It’s giving people a number to call, whether it’s a witness or the actual victim.”
The City is also reaching out to ride services like taxi companies and Uber and Lyft to educate drivers on sex trafficking. While the companies are not required to participate, Rhoades says drivers can be a frontline to stop trafficking in the act.
“Not only can the drivers be the eyes and ears of the community, but traffickers often use taxis to transport victims,” Rhoades wrote in a recent column that appeared in the Daily Press adding, “the drivers may help save a victim.”
The following screenings of SOLD are open to the public for free and will include a panel discussion on Sex Trafficking in the Los Angeles area:
Santa Monica Main Library, 601 Santa Moncia Blvd.
2 – 5 p.m.
Arclight, 395 Santa Monica Place