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Human worth project sheds light on sex trafficking in Vancouver

VANCOUVER, BC—Smart Savvy & Associates is pleased to present a The Human Worth Project—an evening of art and awareness, with a special screening of Sex + Money: a national search for human worth on Wednesday, May 18.

Created by five journalism students from Seattle, this raw, provocative film exposes the rampant sexual slavery happening across North America. The full-length documentary follows the young journalists across the United States as they try to understand how sexual exploitation has become the fastest growing form of organized crime, and what can be done to stop it.

The event, held at the recently renovated District 319—one of the Eastside’s oldest theatres—will also feature a live auction of work by local photographers and artists including celebrated Vancouver photographer and activist Kris Krug.

Smart Savvy President, Peter Reek, saw the film screening as the perfect opportunity to shed light on sex trafficking in Vancouver. “The film focuses on the United States, but the problem doesn’t end at the border,” Reek explains. “Sexual slavery happens in our own city. We can’t just brush it off and say all of Vancouver’s sex workers are there by choice.”

His Vancouver-based marketing recruitment firm is sponsoring the event, donating all proceeds to Union Gospel Mission’s (UGM) emerging women’s shelter on the Downtown Eastside. UGM’s Director of Resource Development, Genesa Greening, will be speaking about the project, and exploring solutions to Vancouver’s sex trade.

As a port city, Vancouver is a prime avenue for sex trafficking, she explains. “We don’t see it as much on corners of the Downtown Eastside, as that tends to be more drug-related. But it’s there in the brothels and massage parlours throughout the city.” Most of these girls are teenagers. There are at least 1,000 sex trade workers in Vancouver’s inner city and the average age of entry into prostitution is 14. “The number of teenage girls is staggering. There are many cases of young girls being taken advantage of within our very own communities, and lured or forced into the sex trade,” says Greening.

As the film reveals, there’s no simple solution to this type of human exploitation. But the key, says Greening, is providing women with tangible alternatives. “These women need a place of sanctuary where they can build trusting relationships. Many are trapped in the sex trade because of addiction and a lack of safe housing.”

UGM has just moved into a new 72,000 square-foot facility in the Downtown Eastside, which primarily offers housing for men. They are in consultation with the government and community regarding plans to retrofit the vacated premises to provide shelter and more support for women and their children on the DTES.

She sees Reek’s initiative and the Sex + Money film as a great avenue to open up dialogue about the sex trade in Vancouver, and how to get involved with finding solutions.

“Maybe I’m an optimist,” she says, “but it’s incomprehensible that in a city this small, so many people are struggling in isolation. If we all work together—agencies, governments, and the people of Vancouver—10 to 20 years from now, I hope people will be talking about when Vancouver had these issues, not that we still do.”

Sex + Money: a national search for human worth is being screened on Wednesday, May 18 at District 319, 319 Main Street. Doors at 6:15pm. Tickets $30 per person, includes cocktails and appetizers. For more information, visit humanworth.ca.

Union Gospel Mission has been feeding hope and changing the lives of men, women, and children for over 70 years. Through its 9 locations in
Metro Vancouver and the city of Mission, UGM provides counseling, education, safe housing, and alcohol and drug recovery to those struggling with poverty, homelessness, and addiction. The heart of the mission is to demonstrate God’s transforming love, ease the burden of
the most vulnerable, rebuild the lives of the broken, and offer dignity to those who feel cast aside. To find out more, visit www.ugm.ca.

11/05/2011

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