BLIND EYES OPENED: THE TRUTH ABOUT SEX TRAFFICKING IN AMERICA takes viewers on a heartbreaking expose of modern-day slavery of 27 million people. The reference to slavery in no way tries to relate the African American experience of slavery, but rather aims to shock society into action by recognizing that people are bought and sold today more than at any other time in history. Moreover. these human “commodities” are mainly children between the ages of 11 to 14. Human sex trafficking in the United States alone is a $13 billion a year industry. That’s equivalent to $3,000 per second. The documentary gives candid and horrific accounts by women who lived through thus terror.
The Reverend Brook Parker-Bello, Ph.D, is CEO, President and Founder of MORE TOO LIFE and recipient of the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the 44th President of the United States and the White House for her outstanding achievements. She gives an open and candid account of the horrors she suffered at the hands of sex traffickers. Finding herself in a desperate home situation, which included rape at age 11, she ran away with a friend. She described herself as a hungry and dirty child who needed care. A man and woman approached and offered to help. First, they took the children out to eat, grooming them all the while. They said they would take them home to clean them up and provide them with new clothes and some more food, insisting that they help children like them. Once they arrived at their new “home,” however, the children were beaten, given heroin, hung over a balcony, and then stripped and prostituted that very night.
It’s hard to even think about such a cruel account of violence and torture, and yet here’s this radiant, intelligent and purpose-driven “angel” Reverend Brook Parker-Bello restored and healed. She’s a living witness that all the darkness in the world cannot extinguish light. Through her organization, Parker-Bello now brings awareness to this issue. She also brings physical, psychological and emotional strategies and programs that aim and succeed in helping victims overcome the devastation brought on by the unimaginable abuse and torture from their captors.
Another woman details her account of trafficking that began with her stepfather “Bill” when she was 10. She hoped for a better life and a new “daddy” when her mother married Bill. However, Bill began sexually molesting her when she was 10-years-old. By the time she was 12, Bill sold her to numerous men, in the family meat store refrigerator, next to the raw meat which hung on hooks from the ceiling. The abuse went on until she was 17. In a turn of fate, her mom decided to leave Bill, and her daughter, behind. With nowhere to go, the young victim found a man she trusted at age 17 and married him. The two newly married couple began a long road to recovery and healing together. She credits the beginning of her recovery to an invitation from her new mother-in-law to attend a church service. Not long after, she and her husband gave their lives to Jesus Christ.
Edie Rhea, a former sex slave, now speaks up for those silenced and helps to break the chains of those held in bondage through her Healing Root Ministry, of which she is Founder and President. On her website, Rhea says, “Real hope for survivors of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation is founded on God’s promise to rescue the prisoner, bind up her wounds, and release her from all that has her bound. Hope expects God to bring beauty from her ashes and joy out of her pain. By raising awareness in the community, and providing shelter for those who were once enslaved, Healing Root Ministry shines the light of Christ in the darkness and offers a beacon of hope.”
Rebekah ran away to have her own autonomy at age 16. Within a short time she was entrenched in a dark world of drugs. Drugs gave way to life of being trafficked by several men over the next 10 years. She won her freedom when she became pregnant, noting people will do for their children what they will not do for themselves. The then visibly pregnant Rebekah went to church the day she left prostitution and felt she would be judged. Instead, she found a loving community inspired by Jesus Christ. Rebekah is now the Executive Director of Valiant Hearts, a ministry dedicated to eradicating sexual exploitation. Rebekah’s ministry inspires many victims who are on the road to recovery.
Niki became involved with an older “boyfriend” when she was 11. He invited her to have Thanksgiving with his family in Ohio. Upon arrival, Niki realized there was no family dinner in the dark and decrepit house to where she was brought. She tried to run, but at only 90 pounds, she was carried to the attic, where she was shackled to the ground. In a dark room and thinking she was alone, she screamed frantically to get out. A brother and sister who were also held captive in that room explained that no one was coming to let her out. The three children lived in the filthy, disgusting and dark attic room for years where they suffered unspeakable violence and abuse by hundreds of predators. Eventually, Niki was rescued and found the road toward healing and recovery. Niki uses her experience to help others know that there is healing and hope. She no longer lets the memories of the past take up residence in her mind anymore. She calls on courageous leaders and clergy to bring awareness to the crimes committed right in their own backyard.
Along with personal testimonies of former victims, BLIND EYES OPENED includes perspectives given by government officials, law enforcement workers, hospital workers, a former abortion staff worker, former pornography and sex addicts, and those committed to end the human trafficking epidemic in America. However, one commentary poignantly asserts, “We will be rescuing and healing forever if we do not get to the root of the cause.”
The documentary seeks to focus on the root causes. A major claim is that trafficking is growing because we’re not taking it seriously. There is a complicity in our culture with the sale of sex and lust. For example, the Center on the Exploitation of Women reports that a starling 50-70% of men regularly look at pornography. It is unknown how many men are buying the 27 million children trafficked. Mike Donehey, the Lead Singer in Tenth Avenue North, asserts that every person can do something to help stop human trafficking. As a musician, he writes songs about it. He argues, “Pornography gives a distortion of human sexuality and sees sex as something where you get all the benefit and you give nothing.” What’s more is that a person can never attain the same amount of arousal by viewing the same porn. Therefore, the porn must get more violent and deviant for the viewer to receive the same amount of arousal. The victims also get younger. The conclusion about the wide spread acceptance of porn, according to these experts, is that, “40-year old-men don’t suddenly wake up one day and want to have sex with a 10 year old.” There is an insidious road to get to that level that feeds and fuels human sex trafficking. To put it all in perspective, a major pornography site gets 28 billion hits a year in the United States alone. That is equivalent to four hits for every person on the planet.
Another contributing factor is that gangs are now involved in human trafficking because drugs and guns can only be sold once. Women who are sold are a “reusable commodity” often sold 10-15 times a night to predators.
The experts agree that, if the supply of commercial sex is cut off, the trafficking issue could be solved. A staggering figure of 70% of the people involved in the commercial sex business are trafficked. A reformed porn and sex addict confesses, “When you’re addicted to sex, you don’t realize the bondage of strongholds that are over your life.” He further admits when you participate in the viewing or selling of pornography, you have just participated in the trafficking of an individual. Pornography is big business. Last year, as previously mentioned, pornography brought in $13 billion, in the US alone. Certainly, this is something well within control of the consumer to end. Pornography creates the demand for trafficking.
BLIND EYES OPENED: THE TRUTH ABOUT TRAFFICKING IN AMERICA is a battle cry to bring awareness to the general public about the 27 million victims of human trafficking criminals. It calls on courageous men and women to stand up and fight for the dignity and worth of every person. These women and children who are trafficked will only live for seven to 10 years in the industry. Most will kill themselves, while others will die from injuries or illnesses sustained by a life of abuse.
How can we spot a predator? The documentary went into a jail cell to ask a convicted predator. He said it was easy. He would spot a loner, someone with a low self-esteem and family problems. They wait in malls and bus stops looking for runaways. A predator grooms their victims. They form trust and find common interests. They often give compliments, gifts or special privileges to their victim. When they detect family problems, they create a bigger wedge. Some predators pretended to be the girl’s older “boyfriend” for as long as nine months before they sold them. Officer Wilkett, a law enforcement member who has helped traffic victims for years, advises that families, especially families with a single parent, to be especially cautious. They are targeted more because the child will more likely have emotional needs they are trying to meet. Prevention is the best weapon, he says.
Former Florida Congressman Ross Spano says, “Every child deserves to have someone who would do anything, go anywhere, or pay any price to save them.” We must be that for every victim, he notes. “Victim-centered laws” which punish the victims, as opposed to harsher punishments for traffickers and predators, must change. We are not solving the problem, because we don’t take it seriously, he concludes.
The documentary brilliantly focuses on the need for awareness, recovery, prevention, and education, while at the same time does not cover up or try to sugar coat the horrors of the worst crimes humanly possible committed against women and children. The documentary also reports that anywhere from 10-15%, up to 50%, of trafficked victims are boys.
BLIND EYES OPENED: THE TRUTH ABOUT TRAFFICKING IN AMERICA explores what some might call the “frozen floor of hell,” while managing to bring hope for healing, recovery, and prevention. The accounts are raw and real. Stories are told by the people who’ve lived through the nightmares. These same people are committed to finding and rescuing all who are in bondage, admitting that some girls have formed emotional bonds with their predators, which sometimes makes the process daunting. The girls will defend their predators, claim “consent,” and even suffer and go to jail for their “pimps,” who they in many cases also call “daddy.” The former victims stress that, when people come across sex trafficking victims, it’s important to keep asking questions. Victims need someone to come with them in that place of pain. They also need people surrounding them who understand what guilt, repentance, forgiveness, and wiping the slate clean mean. As Officer Wilkett says in the movie, “If we’re going to win the battle on the streets, we have to first win the battle in our hearts.”