Episode One: Sex Trafficking in the USA
Premiered January 26, 2015 on PBS
The Department of Justice estimates that there are 300,000 children at risk of being trafficked into sexual slavery in the U.S. In the first episode of A Path Appears, we meet the survivors behind these shocking numbers, and illuminate the widespread existence of this violent crime taking place across America.
Ashley Judd and Nicholas Kristof travel to Nashville where they visit the Magdalene House and meet Shana Goodwin, whose earliest memories are of being sexually abused by her grandfather. Shana guides them through the streets where her mother first sold her to a pimp at the age of 12. Shana, and the other survivors of sex trafficking and prostitution, paint a complex picture of the problems that exist and the solutions we need to see.
In Boston, Blake Lively joins Kristof as they visit the nationally recognized anti-trafficking organization My Life My Choice. We witness the devastating moment when Maria discovers her missing 15-year-old daughter, who she feared had fallen prey to a trafficker, being sold through backpage.com. Followed by relief from her daughter’s successful return and recovery. Then we meet Savannah, another young trafficking survivor who was stalked by an older man on a “sugar-daddy” website and then sold only to be held in sexual bondage. Months into her recovery, she is rebuilding her relationship with her mother, whose own history sheds light on the generational nature of trauma and exploitation.
Approximately 15 percent of American men regularly purchase sex, but few are ever penalized. Kristof and Malin Akerman address this statistic in Chicago when they visit Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and his team who are leading the country in reshaping law enforcement’s response to prostitution and trafficking. We go behind the scenes on a sting operation to crack down on the buyers of sex on the annual, nationwide Day of Johns Arrest.
The episode concludes with a return to Nashville to revisit Magdalene’s social enterprise, Thistle Farms, which provides survivors with the full range of services necessary to their healing as well as essential job skills. Led by Reverend Becca Stevens, the program proves that while the reality is horrifying and the long-term impact on survivors is devastating, there are solutions.