What were you doing when you were 12 to 14 years old? Millions of women and children in Latin America are pulled into sex trafficking at this age.
The Linfield Chaplain’s Team hosted a viewing of “Volviendo,” a documentary by three young filmmakers about the perpetually growing problem of sex trafficking in Latin America on April 23 in Ice Auditorium. The event also included discussion with one of the producers of the documentary and a woman who survived sex trafficking.
Artwork from survivors was on display for guests to look at before the film. Words, including hope and healing, filled paintings and poetry that were brought by organizations, such as Mending Soul and Freedom’s Breath.
Starting at 7 p.m., the documentary was introduced by Chaplain David Massey and alumna Sierra Stopper.
Stopper graduated in 2011 with a Spanish major and anthropology minor. After studying abroad during her time at Linfield, Stopper learned about the sex trafficking problem. Upon graduation, Stopper met Jes Richardson, who helped Stopper found the Volviendo organization. Stopper and Massey worked together with Portland-based organizations to make this event possible.
Volviendo originally started out as a feature film project by producer Phillip Abraham, Brittany Lefebvre and Diego Traverso.
“We didn’t want to just make a documentary about the problem,” Abraham said. “We followed them through their daily life. They didn’t hear the sad music. It was their life. We wanted to show people how they can work to fix it.”
The group traveled through Central and South America starting in Mexico. It quickly realized that creating the fictional film based off of sex trafficking would not be as powerful as showing the world the multitude of the problem across Latin America through a documentary. Many times, the filmmakers and crew put themselves in dangerous situations, including run-ins with pimps, those being trafficked and the authorities.
After the film, Abraham asked for words that would describe how the audience was feeling. Words, such as sad, hurt, ashamed and confused were suggested from different members of the audience, most expressing their lack of knowledge about sex trafficking before the film.
Richardson, a sex trafficking survivor, spoke after Abraham, talking about how she was pulled in to trafficking and also how she survived it. Coming from a broken home, Richardson ran away and began working on the street.
“The abuse can come from anyone, a family member, a significant other, a pimp,” Richardson said. “He gave me attention, and as a teenager, I ate it up. It’s all I wanted. And when he changed my name, it made me into an adult.”
Life was beginning to wear on Richard by the time she was only 18 years old, despite her driver’s license stating she was 23 years old.
“The only thing someone ever told me was ‘once a hoe always a hoe, and that’s all you’ll ever know.’ So I did the only thing I knew what to do. I stayed in that life for three more years. I didn’t know what else to do. How do you sit in front of a job application trying to fill out past job experience? It’s reality, and for three years suicide became one of the only options.”
It was at the same she was thinking about suicide that Richardson found herself at a clinic where she got the news of a positive pregnancy test.
“It wasn’t AIDs. It should have been. So many of my friends had it. I was pregnant,” Richardson said. “Today, that child is 12 years old. She’s president of her sixth grade class, and she knows my story because it’s her story. It’s the fight in her that created the fight in me.”
Kaylyn Peterson/Copy chief
Kaylyn Peterson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.