Recap: Students Against Human Trafficking Day of Awareness

by Sarah Gladstone, Sofia Tong, Rosa Stern Pait, Conor Amrien, Kate Finerty and Jeremy Margolis

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Junior Talia Putnoi introduces the A-block presentation and gives a trigger warning.


The day began in B-block with a panel of three women working at My Life My Choice, a survivor-led organization dedicated to fighting the commercial sexual exploitation of adolescents. The three speakers, Ann, Tina and Latiana, are all survivors of sexual exploitation. They answered questions from Lisa, director and co-founder of My Life My Choice, before taking questions from the audience. Questions focused on their specific experiences, from enticement to managing to leave their situation. A major theme of the presentation was negating the misconception that victims of sex trafficking are physically coerced. All three emphasized that emotional manipulation is a more insidious and common tool.

The A-block presentation began with a brief introduction and trigger warning by junior Talia Putnoi. Then there was a screening of part of A Path Appears, a documentary by journalist Nicholas Kristof about prostitution and sex trafficking in the United States. The section of the film that was screened was made in partnership with My Life My Choice. It followed the stories of a mother whose daughter had gone missing and was being trafficked, and a teenage girl who had been trafficked and was now rebuilding her life. After the film, there was a panel discussion with two representatives from My Life My Choice, where they discussed their involvement with the documentary and the work they do.

During X-block, students gathered in the MLK Room to have an informal discussion regarding sex trafficking. Led by senior Sara Cohen and sophomore Avery Grace, the conversation ranged from the motivations of men and women participating in the sex industry to the glorification of prostitution and the sexualization of girls in the media. The discussion also covered the possible ways of reducing sex trafficking and the generalizations that feed it.

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Senior Sara Cohen and sophomore Avery Gracy lead a conversation about sex trafficking.

For E-block, Sergeant Jennifer Paster and Officer Casey Hatchett came from the Brookline Police Department to speak about their efforts to reduce the victimization of youth in Brookline. They spoke about the new trends in internet and online use in making enticement easier. They also showed clips of men arrested for enticement or involved in prostitution being interviewed and then took questions.

During G-block, the club showed clips from the 2011 documentary Very Young Girls, directed by David Schisgall and Nina Alvarez. The film follows the work of Rachel Lloyd, the founder of the New York organization GEMS (Girls Educational and Mentoring Service), After, club members took questions from the audience about issues raised in the clips or from the day’s prior sessions.

The F-block discussion took place at the end of the day’s assemblies in the Martin Luther King Jr. room. The discussion included a question and answer period and open response to the day’s events along with issues related to sex trafficking. Senior Sara Cohen and sophomore Avery Grace led by prompting the audience and answering questions with the help of their fellow club members. The conversation began when senior Drew Dempsey wrote the word “prostitute” on the whiteboard behind the club members. Members of the club asked for the crowd to describe what connotations they shared with the word and proceeded to do the same after writing the word “pimp.” Cohen and Grace structured the discussion around topics that ranged from pornography and the media to the sex trade’s repercussions on women.

Sarah Gladstone, Sofia Tong, Rosa Stern Pait, Conor Amrien, Kate Finnerty and Jeremy Margolis can be contacted at [email protected]