The East County community will get a chance Monday night to learn about a crime against the most vulnerable that is plaguing the San Diego area.
Soroptomist International of Lemon Grove will sponsor a screening of the film “Indoctrinated: The Grooming of Children into Prostitution.”
The 33-minute documentary, which was shot and produced by Lemon Grove filmmaker Jim Ellis, tells the stories of youth forced into child sex trafficking and serves as a tool to get teens and parents talking about a difficult subject.
Jennifer Mendoza, a Soroptomist board member, said the organization’s mission is to improve the lives of women and girls in the local community and around the world.
With January being Human Trafficking Awareness Month and San Diego one of the three cities in California with the highest rates of the crime, Mendoza said the club thought this was the perfect time to screen the film for the Lemon Grove community.
“We wanted to do the program to bring awareness to the Lemon Grove community,” she said. “We are going to present a copy of the film to the Lemon Grove School District. We hope the middle school will have a showing with kids and their parents.”
Around 293,000 youth in the United States currently are at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation, according to FBI data. Some of the victims are runaway youths who live on the streets but others are forced into child sex trafficking through abduction.
While researching for the film, Ellis came across a statistic that around 100,000 American teens every year fall prey to the sex industry. The average age is around 13, he said.
What started as a five-minute promo video about an organization called the ACTION Network, which stands for Against Child Trafficking in Our Neighborhoods, grew into a 33-minute documentary film in partnership with the organization's founder Manolo Guillen, Ellis said.
The documentary, completed in 2011, gave Ellis a chance to help not only educate the public on a serious issue, but to outline ways to solve the problem.
“I’ve always been interested in telling a story about what is really going on and helping communities and societies wake up to problems and solutions,” he said.
Ellis said the pimps that go after children look for places like San Diego, Anaheim, and Las Vegas, where there are tons of out-of-towners.
They look for youth who are vulnerable, starved for love and attention, he said. Shopping malls, often frequented by unsupervised teens, are one of the key places traffickers go to find their victims.
“They are almost like an animal,” he said of traffickers. “They will prey on the weakest out there.”
The San Diego County Office of Education sponsored the film and created a study guide for community members, teachers, and administrators to learn how to present the material, Ellis said. Any individual, organization, or school can order the DVD and study guide from the county Office of Education. The film has been shown in other states and countries.
Ellis said the key to ending child sex trafficking is to arm parents and children with the tools they need to recognize and avoid the dangers.
“There is a list of things that parents can do and also a list for teens,” Ellis said. “So we actually empowering the teens.”
The subject matter is tough. One story in the film recounts how a 12-year-old girl was abducted, gang raped, beaten, and brainwashed into the lifestyle, he said.
“How do you talk to a 12-year-old or 13-year-old about dark, heinous situations, but the consequence of not talking about it is somebody else might trick your kids,” he said.
LEMON GROVE COMMUNITY MEETING
What: The Soroptimist International of Lemon Grove is hosting the screening of the documentary "Indoctrinated: The Grooming of Children into Prostitution.”
Where: Lemon Grove Community Center, 3146 School Lane
When: 6 p.m. Monday