If parents are disturbed that their kids pay more attention to their cell phones than to them, there’s cause for concern that some of them might lose their kids through social media—literally.
Losing them to whom? To those who traffic in human beings, selling them into slavery, particularly sexual slavery.
“They’re getting to our kids on social media,” said Lisa Arnold, director of a new film about the phenomenon, Caged No More. “They’re asking them to meet up… Then they can be taken or shame-gamed into something, where they do something and they threaten to tell their families, put it all over social media, then they’re talked into doing something else.”
The PG-13-rated film is fictitious but based on several victims’ stories. It stars Kevin Sorbo (God’s Not Dead), and Emmy-Award winner Loretta Devine, among others.
Caged No More tells the story of two young sisters who grew up in a broken home: illicit drug abuse is what leads their father to sell them into slavery, and what takes the life of their mother. But a Christian nanny who refuses to give up hope, even when it seems like one of the girls has been killed, is the driving force that leads a Special Ops-trained cousin to a dramatic rescue in Greece.
Arnold, co-producer for God’s Not Dead, co-wrote Caged No More with Molly Venzke. She spoke with Aleteia as her film was released to DVD July 7. She said human trafficking is now the fastest growing crime in the world, and that every 30 seconds, someone becomes a victim.
“There’s so much money to be made on it,” she said. “A rescued teen told me this surpasses the war on drugs because a drug can be sold once, and a child can be sold up to 50 times a day.
“They’re looking for children who are vulnerable,” Arnold counseled. “They’re looking for children who are looking for love. Teach your child that when he’s approached by a stranger to say ‘No thank you’ and walk away. But look ‘em straight in the eye. They will not engage with your child. They’re looking for the ones who can’t make eye contact, that when you give them a compliment they latch onto it. They’re missing something. They’re missing a relationship or they’re missing love in their lives.”
The director and her team hope the film will be used by churches, schools and community groups to get a nationwide discussion going. She herself admits to a former ignorance on the subject.
“A couple of years ago I thought it was a third world phenomenon,” she said. “I had no idea it was happening in the US, particularly that it was happening all around me. It’s big in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, but even a small city that’s 30 minutes from where I live has been hit hard. There’s really no rhyme or reason where it’s happening, it’s just happening everywhere. And 10-13 year old boys are at the greatest risk; 11-14 year old girls are at the greatest risk. That’s why we’ve got to start having conversations about this in our homes, our churches and our schools.”
Those who lure young people into a world that is depicted darkly in Arnold’s film have come up with clever tactics. “A lot of times girls will be contacted and then flirted with and then they feel they have a boyfriend, and then they start talking them into doing things, like ‘My truck needs fixing, could you just do this one favor for me,'” she said.
Now, she said, traffickers are hiring 15- through 17-year-olds to use as bait. “They’re letting them hang out where our kids are, so it’s not like they’re being approached by a strange man,” she said. “It’s a non-threatening child who looks like them, acts like them and talks like them.”
While making the film she met a family in California whose daughter had been approached by a young girl. The girl complimented her on her shoes and said she was new to the area and asked if they could exchange numbers so she could show her around.
“The next day that girl called her daughter, and her mom drove her to the mall and dropped her off,” Arnold said, “and her daughter was taken. In 23 hours that poor girl was beaten and raped and her whole physical appearance was changed and she was drugged and then put out on the street. It was only by the grace of someone seeing her on the street saying ‘This doesn’t look right’ that a police officer was contacted and she was returned. … Normally she would have been moved to another area.”
Arnold hopes that fewer young people will get even that far, and she prays that her film, as well as her presentations, will help more families avoid such heartbreak.