The Long Night: The Harsh Truth About Sex Trafficking in the US

“I’d kill the whole world to get my little girl back.”

I felt my chest tighten as I jotted this quote down, tears streaming down my cheeks. I absorbed every bit of this father’s pain at that moment, and yet my reaction couldn’t possibly be anywhere near the true agony this desperate man must have experienced.

The Long Night is a powerful, one-hour documentary film by Tim Matsui that gives voice and meaning to the crisis of minors who are forced and coerced into the American sex trade. The film weaves together the stories of seven people whose lives have been forever changed by this issue.

Natalie - The Long Night

“There wasn’t really much that I think I was running away from at home. I think that I just wanted to rebel. I think that I wanted to not have to listen to rules or have to worry about getting straight A’s for my parents.”
Within 36 hours of leaving home, Natalie was contacted by a ‘bottom girl’ and on her way to being pimped out.

Tom’s beautiful daughter Natalie ran away from home when she was 15 years old. She wasn’t a bad kid, just rebellious. Within days of arriving in Seattle, she was prostituting her virgin body in somebody’s basement.

Natalie returned home after 10 horrific days in Seattle where she was pimped out and raped. Confused and sad and unable to attend school, where her peers called her a whore and a slut, she soon found herself running away once again. And prostitution found her once again.

Tom - The Long Night

“The support that we thought we had with friends, that just stopped. It felt like they looked at us like it was like our fault, like it was something that we had done, as opposed to something that somebody else had done.”
Natalie’s father speaking about how their community responded when she finally returned from the hands of her pimp.

By the end of film, we see Tom driving around to massage parlors asking for young girls as he desperately tries to find his daughter, thoughts of killing pimps running through his brain. At this point, Tom is also an alcoholic. While the family is eventually re-united, it is clear they have a long road ahead of them.

We often think of sex trafficking as a problem in other parts of the world. Reality is that the sex trade is real and active in our own backyard. I recall hearing Cindy McCain, a strong voice fighting human trafficking, telling AYA Summit attendees that we’ve all seen victims, we just don’ realize it.

Lisa - The Long Night

Turned out by a pimp at 13, Lisa only knows one life. The heroin that makes her forget and the tricks she turns to survive.
“I feel like my skin’s crawling right now and it’s like it doesn’t matter how clean I try to get how many showers I take, it doesn’t go away. When I say I’m scared of being sober, I’m scared of the reality of things.”

Since watching the movie, I keep thinking of Lisa, a woman covered in track marks from injecting heroin and scars from cutting. Her addiction to heroin was the only thing that could numb the pain of her life as a sex worker, a harsh life that started when she was just 13-years-old.

I’ve worked in the substance abuse treatment field for 8 years now and Lisa’s story is not that uncommon. Years of abuse and pain have left her a shadow of the person she once was. Struggling to break her drug abuse and with very little support, the odds are stacked against her. Her own mother has pleaded with the public to watch the film so that other girls can be spared the life that Lisa has endured. A life that has no guarantee of continuing if drastic measures aren’t taken. (I believe Lisa is now in jail.)

You also get perspectives from the police who hear “the worst story I have ever heard” every single day on the job.

Joel - The Long Night

Detective Joel Banks on how his police work with trafficking victims affects him.
“It just gets really heavy. You actually kind of have to take a breath, and then we’d say, ‘Man, that’s the worst story I ever heard,’ and then tomorrow comes along, and it’s the next worst story you’ve ever heard.”

I’m not going to lie. I felt somewhat destroyed after watching this movie. It is heavy and hard to watch. Yet it is so important you do.

So what can we do about sex trafficking and its horrific effects? Here are some very simple action steps you can take right now:

  • First, think about your sphere of influence
  • Then, watch The Long Night
  • Like The Long Night’s Facebook page
  • Like Leaving the Life’s Facebook page 
  • Invite your friends to do the same
  • Comment on the film. On your page or on the film’s. Tweet about it.
  • Share a story. Share your own Call to Action.
  • Host a living room screening of the film
  • Bring the film to your PTA  group
  • Integrate the into your schools
  • Call your city officials and ask that they watch the film
  • Get the film to your local police chief
  • Find local victim service providers and ask what they need; socks, meals, donations for their annual fundraiser, they’ll know. And then let your community know what you did, inspire them!
  • Have Leaving the Life come to your municipality to facilitate the co-creation of solutions in day-long convenings. This will take some work, even if you’re the mayor or the county executive.
  • Because it’s all connected, consider donating to your favorite nonprofit working on a social justice issue. This includes Leaving the Life

Will you spend an hour watching The Long Night?

I wrote this post as part of the Global Team of 200, a highly specialized group of Mom Bloggers for Social Good members who focus on maternal health, children, hunger, and women and girls.

Wordless Wednesday: #AYASummit Pictorial

As I shared last Wednesday, I attended the AYA Summit with ONE Girls & Women last week at Google’s offices in Washington DC. It was an amazing gathering of bloggers and panelists, and I am still struggling to find the right words to describe the experience. There will be a post soon though. I promise. For now, I invite you to read the wonderful posts from my dear friends Nicole Morgan (Sisters From Another Mister) and Nicole Melancon (Third Eye Mom). Both have cameos below as well.

[click on the image to enlarge]

aya summit collage

Wordless Wednesday (10.29.14): #AYASummit Pictorial

Linking up with

5 Minutes for Mom
Wordless Wednesday
Wordless Wednesday @ The Jenny Evolution
Curious as a Cathy

Philanthropy Friday: Social Good Summit 2014 Recap

Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer.

This following article is a guest post from my good friend and fellow Global Team of 200 member, Nicole Melancon of ThirdEyeMom. 

social good summit 2014

On Monday night, I returned home after attending my third Social Good Summit in New York City, this year as a United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow. The Social Good Summit is a unique convening of world leaders, new media and technology experts, grassroots activists and voices from around the world that come together for a two-day conference coinciding with the United Nations General Assembly meeting held during UN Week.

The theme of this year’s summit – #2030NOW: Connecting for Good, Connecting for All - challenged speakers, participants and a growing worldwide community to explore how technology and new media can be leveraged to benefit people everywhere, to spark discussion and ignite change in creating a better world for all by the year 2030.

This year’s conversation #2030NOW centered around one critical thought: Where do we want to be in 2030 and how can we inspire and engage the millennials of the world to stand up, use their voice, and disrupt the system to demand change. #2030NOW challenged people to deeply reflect and act upon critical issues –  such as climate change, women and girls empowerment, gender and racial equality, eradication of poverty, improving maternal and child health, and promoting peace – that are threatening to destroy the world we want to have by 2030. It was a powerful summit reminding us that as we are approaching the end of the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) how are we going to continue to pressure our global leaders to be held accountable for and make positive change. How we going to ensure that the world in 2030 is the world we want to have.

So where do we want to be in 2030? What kind of world do we want to live in? Here are some of the most powerful conversations and quotes from #2030 that inspire us to act:

“Why are people so afraid of education? Because it is through education that we can change the world” @mroth78

“Women with a laptop are more powerful than men with a gun.” @WorldPulse #2030NOW

“Gender discrimination is the most tolerated violation of rights on earth today.” – @phumzileunwomen #2030NOW

“If you take the hard numbers, then science is clearly telling us that we’re running out of time.” – Achim Steiner #climatechange #2030NOW

“You don’t judge a society by how you treat the rich. You judge a society by how you treat the poor and the condemned.” #2030Now #WeAreHere

“Social media isn’t just clicking when you like something, it’s contesting when you don’t”.  #2030now .@stengel

“I want to make incredible change for women and girls in my lifetime, but it’s going to take all of us to do it.” – MelindaGates #2030Now

“At this rate, by 2030 we could virtually eliminate extreme poverty, needless child death and offer everyone a shot at a good, dignified life that doesn’t jeopardize future generations. In 2030 we could live in one of two worlds. Which do we want? Our action in 2015 decides 2030″.  – Jamie Drummond, Co-Founder of ONE.org

After two, highly intense and emotionally charged days I walk away inspired to use my voice to promote good and help change the world. For me, the key highlights were the fact that we are fortunate to live in a world where we have a voice so let’s use it. Let’s engage in the issues that mean the most to use, and use our voice to disrupt the system and ignite change. So many people around the world do not have this power and freedom to use their voice and now it is more important than ever to be heard. Where do we want to be in 2030 is up to us.

So what kind of world do we want?

Nicole Melancon

Nicole Melancon is a Minneapolis-based freelance journalist, traveler and global volunteer who shares her passion for travel, culture and social good on Thirdeyemom. Nicole is also a world voice editor for World Moms Blog, and a regular contributor to The Elephant Journal and The Huffington Post where she focuses on global health, human rights, motherhood, poverty and the environment. She is an advocate for ONE, The United Nations Foundation Shot@Life Campaign and other non-profit organizations.

Nicole traveled to India in May 2013 as a member of Mom Bloggers for Social Good where she reported on water, sanitation, newborn health and education. In June, Nicole traveled to Ethiopia as a fellow for the International Reporting Project to document newborn and maternal health.

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