His face is laugh-lined, kind, eyes taking in your words more completely than his easy-resting smile indicates. He sits in an official room, with a Santa Barbara County agency seal imprinted on the wall, a California flag behind him. You can tell he’s busy — that cell phone phone sends in streams of emails and text messages. Audio and camera, rolling. He sits down for an interview, and listens to this question: “Many think of sex trafficking as solely an international problem — would you please re-orient this issue to a local context please?” He gives a slight smile, and responds.
This individual is our first documentary interviewee. He is a fantastic human being, and deeply passionate about combating the rise of sexual exploitation in our community.
When sharing about my work, particularly in local contexts, I have encountered a myriad of responses. The most frequent is, “No — human trafficking in Santa Barbara? Surely not here.” The response is understandable, but frankly, I’m tired of hearing it. After reporting on domestic child sex trafficking last year, I saw the need to promote educational awareness in a more accessible form. The presence of sex trafficking and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation of children in Santa Barbara County needs to be acknowledged — not in a vacuum that would falsely isolate the issue from other injustices that both cause and intersect exploitation, but with a robust perspective that allows for complexity.
I hope to offer an avenue for this perspective through a documentary, a short educational film that will highlight the presence of human trafficking, primarily sex trafficking, in Santa Barbara County. We are in the beginning stages of filming, and are thrilled to see where this project goes.
My friend Thomas Shank is promoting this effort through his upcoming 35-mile Jesusita Trail Run. If you’d like to give to his GoFundMe, check out: www.gofundme.com/35milesfor3500
Feel free to email me to know more about this project, or others that I’m working on! And, if you’re passionate about addressing these issues, you’re always welcome to contribute financially! Click Donate to support our work.
Happy beginning-of-spring, with all the glory of wisteria blooms, jasmine vines, and halfhearted rainstorms,