PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Director Libby Spears filmed a lot of her documentary about child sex trafficking in the Portland area and helped develop a curriculum that teaches students about the scope and prevalence of the problem.
Monday night, students from Madison High School and David Douglas High School will take part in a discussion with the Portland police, county commissioners, the district attorney and others about sex trafficking.
“I think one of the biggest gaps is in the area of prevention and getting to kids before it happens,” Spears told KOIN 6 News. “I mean, that is ideal.”
She said one in every 5 girls and one in every 10 boys will be sexually exploited before the age of 18. Estimates from experts said between 100,000 and 300,000 children are at risk of being sex trafficked in the US each year.
She started the Nest Foundation, a Los Angeles-based non-profit, and the curriculum is part of a pilot program in the 10th grade health classes at Madison High. It’s also being tried at David Douglas High.
In 2009, the George Clooney-produced documentary, “Playground: The Child Sex Trade in America,” was released.
“What they are coming in contact with is things like sexting and being on Snapchat and all these new apps, and I don’t think they’re realizing they’re putting themselves at risk for things like trafficking,” she said.
“So the big thing is to change that stigma. These are not bad kids or troubled kids. These are kids who are being manipulated.”
Organizers say prevention means giving teens tools to recognize what can be months of grooming by an abuser at a time in their lives when many teens feel self-conscious or uncertain.
“Perpetrators know that they’re really savvy and they find a weak spot and maybe start complimenting a girl on how she looks or tell her that he understands when nobody else may,” said Nishima Chudasama, the director of programs for the Nest Foundation.
When the curriculum was being put into place at Madison High, Spears said the students had a lot of important things to say.
“It’s critical to hear from youth because those are the people we’re trying to protect. So we need to listen to be more effective at our jobs,” she said.