by Emily Ostrowski
Last month 75 people gathered at Kiggins Theater in Vancouver to watch a free screening of the critically acclaimed documentary “I Am Jane Doe” put on by YWCA Clark County, in partnership with the National Women’s Coalition Against Violence and Exploitation (NWCAVE), and the Clark County Human Trafficking Task Force.
The film, narrated and produced by Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain examines the crisis of human sex trafficking through the lens of young women who are survivors, as well as their mothers who work to seek justice for their daughters, and the thousands of other families that have been hurt, and left unprotected against human trafficking.
The film is a powerful, sobering, and sometimes graphic look at the horrors young women who are trafficked are forced to endure. It was also frustrating to see the many ways in which our government and our communities are failing to adequately address the issue.
Specifically “I Am Jane Doe” examines how the advertising website Backpage was featuring escort ads with underage girls on their site, and how, through Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act meant to protect internet freedom, they were allowed to do so without facing any liability.
Several viewers left comment cards after the screening with the common refrain of finding the film “eye-opening,” “thought-provoking,” and “informative.” One viewer wrote that the documentary was, “the most current and local film I’ve seen in a long time.”
“I Am Jane Doe” does indeed have local relevance. Not only because Seattle serves as a location for one of the survivors’ stories, but also because the I-5 corridor remains a popular route for human traffickers.
In the past several years, law enforcement has worked with community partners in the area to try and end sexual exploitation and trafficking in Clark County. Five women from several of those organizations came to speak on a panel after the film, and answer questions about the challenges of protecting our community’s children, as well as the difficulties survivors of human trafficking can face, and how best to help them.
Each panelist stressed the idea that it’s never too early to talk with children about issues like consent, and about the potential dangers of meeting strangers on the internet. They also encouraged parents to be as aware as possible of their children’s social media habits. YWCA Clark County has several prevention programs that help both parents and children with exactly these types of concerns.
When it came to discussing how to help those who had been trafficked, the panel noted the limited resources available, including the fact that currently there are no shelters designed specifically for human trafficking victims in the area.
However, a spot of bright news was that Janus Youth Services was recently awarded a grant for $206,101 from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Crime Victims Advocacy to launch a program to address sex trafficking in Clark County. According to an article in The Columbian, the grant will fund two outreach specialists and a case manager to work at Janus’ drop-in center in downtown Vancouver, The Perch.
Increases in funding, along with the advocacy of the Clark County Human Trafficking Task Force and similar organizations will help to continue to shed light on the epidemic of human trafficking in our community, and offer help to those most vulnerable.
YWCA Clark County would like to thank NWCAVE, the Clark County Human Trafficking Task Force, Kiggins Theater, the panelists, and everyone who took part in this event. To learn more about how you can get involved, and what you can do to protect your children, view the links and resources at the bottom of this article.
“I Am Jane Doe” is available now on iTunes, and Netflix. It is also still showing in select theaters. 50% of all proceeds the film makes will be donated back to non-profit organizations which serve Jane Doe children.
Michelle Bart: President and Co-founder of National Women’s Coalition Against Violence and Exploitation
Alaire de Salvo: Administrative Coordinator for Janus Youth Program’s Washington Services with Youth.
Amanda Workman: Community Coordinator for the Pathways to Healing Program at the Cowlitz Indian Tribe
De Stewart: Sexual Assault Advocacy Specialist for YWCA Clark County
Kay Vail: Co-chair of the Clark County Human Trafficking Task Force
Learn more about YWCA Clark County’s Prevention Programs here, as well as read our recent post about two of the programs Where We Grow and Where We Thrive here.
Find additional resources on human trafficking in Clark County here.