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Locally made movie raises awareness of human trafficking

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Locally made movie raises awareness of human trafficking

Post by bluegill on January 14th 2010, 10:13 am

Premiere set Sunday in Maumee

A young girl, starved for affection, meets a guy who buys her expensive gifts and treats her like a queen.

But after a few months, the relationship takes a frightening turn. He becomes threatening and abusive, telling the young girl that “I took care of you, now you’ve got to take care of me.”

The “boyfriend” then forces the teenager into prostitution.

That’s the story of a new locally made film, Losing Maria, describing the sad reality for too many local teenage girls, according to Mary Schmidbauer. She is the director of Second Chance, a program that is overseen by the nonprofit Toledo Area Ministries.

“We put together an intervention video regarding human trafficking because Toledo is a significant area for teens to be called into the sex-trade industry,” Ms. Schmidbauer said.

The 42-minute film, produced by Second Chance and featuring an all-local cast and crew, will have its premiere Sunday at the Maumee Theatre in a program cosponsored by Second Chance and a regional group of nuns belonging to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

In addition to two showings of Losing Maria, there will be panel discussions featuring local experts on human trafficking.

“In working with young girls locally, we have taken some of the stories that have happened to them and put them into a screenplay,” Ms. Schmidbauer said. “It’s a slightly fictionalized version of the stories of seven girls who contributed to it, and condensed into a single character.”

People often think that the majority of young girls who are forced into prostitution are kidnapped randomly off the street, but the more common scenarios are ones like the movie’s main character Maria, who was recruited and taken advantage of by a human trafficker.

“The traffickers come in and play the role of boyfriend and seduce someone into the life,” Ms. Schmidbauer said. “So many teenage girls are so starved for affection that they believe the guys are genuine.”

The Second Chance Mission was founded in 1993 by Celia Williamson, a University of Toledo professor. She will be one of the speakers on tomorrow’s panel discussions.

Second Chance’s goals include offering supportive services to woman and youth affected by, or at risk of, involvement in sex trafficking.

It also seeks to raise community awareness about human trafficking issues.
The group cites numerous studies on human trafficking with statistics that show as much as 40 to 60 percent of women incarcerated at the Correctional Center of Northwest Ohio were involved in prostitution.

In 2005, authorities broke up a prostitution ring based in Harrisburg, Pa., in which 22 of the 33 people arrested were from Toledo, including at least nine minor young women.

Losing Maria aims to warn young girls of the risks and to be aware of the tricks traffickers use. The “glitz and glamor” they see at first could lead to beatings, abuse, and coercion, Ms. Schmidbauer said.

The costs of the video were kept below $10,000 thanks to volunteer help and contributions, she said,.

“It is an evocative film and the purpose is to try and raise awareness and create discussion so that families, community members, whoever is a witness to the film, can figure out how we can address these issues and provide support for youth to keep them from this situation,” Ms. Schmidbauer said.

The video features Josh Bey, Santoria Sawyer, and Juliana Birmingham.
The showings and panel discussions start at 2 and 4 p.m. tomorrow at the Maumee Indoor Theatre, 601 Conant St. Admission is free but donations will be accepted.

The program is being held in coordination with President Barack Obama’s proclamation designating January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and tomorrow as National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
President Obama, in making the proclamation Monday, said trafficking victims often find it hard to imagine there might be a place of refuge.

“We must join together as a nation and global community to provide that safe haven by protecting victims and prosecuting traffickers,” he said.

More information on Second Chance is available online at TAMOhio.org or by calling 419-244-6050.

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