Santa Rosa, CA – March 5, 2018 – In August of 2016, Sonoma County Junior Human Rights Commissioner Shynie Lu began directing the documentary Strong Survival on human trafficking in Sonoma County. The 30 minute film documents local survivor and activist Maya Babow’s experiences from the ages of 12 to 18, exploring the psychological and physical harm human trafficking has on victims. Strong Survival also features interviews with law enforcement members of the Sonoma County Human Trafficking Task Force and sexual assault victims' advocate organization Verity. The film seeks to spread awareness of human trafficking as a pervasive problem in our own community, and educate young people on ways to protect themselves from traffickers.
“We need to better educate ourselves, learn how traffickers work, and stop the demand. If you can stop the demand, there is no need for supply,” says Babow. She is committed to transforming the trauma of her experience into healing and advocacy, giving presentations at schools and community events and offering her contact info to any young person who seeks help or feels unsafe. Every year, thousands of young women, children and young men become human trafficking victims. According to Verity, the average age of victims entering human trafficking in Sonoma County is 12 to 14. “The goal of the film is to raise awareness of this highly under-discussed issue,” says director Lu. “We wish to educate not only the adults, but also children and teenagers, so that they can learn to protect themselves and each other.”
In addition to the film, Human Trafficking Committee members Olivia Kulawiak, Casey Dai and Annapurna Johnson have developed an informative brochure on human trafficking statistics and warning signs, in partnership with sexual assault victims’ advocate organization Verity. It is being distributed to all Sonoma County middle and high schools. As human trafficking can be a sensitive topic to navigate for educators and administrators, the Committee is offering schools a screening and presentation with Maya Babow for students. They can also distribute the film’s website and brochures to parents who can use them in discussion with young people.
The Human Trafficking Committee has been promoting the film at universities, student organizations, and humanitarian organizations in hopes of bringing wider attention to the devastating effects of human trafficking.
To date, it has received more than 2000 views and has been screened by the Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights, the Marin County Office of Education, Northwestern University, Wake Forest University, University of Williams & Mary and the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill. To watch the film, please visit www.strongsurvivalfilm.com.
The Junior Commission on Human Rights is a project of the Commission on Human Rights, an appointed advisory board to the County Board of Supervisors. The Junior Commission is intended to provide high school students with the opportunity to participate in advocacy, take an active role in the county government, provide education about human rights issues, and empower youth to make a positive impact on their communities.