Indie film ‘Not My Life’ documents reality of modern slavery

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“Not My Life” is a wake-up call. There exists a reality about human trafficking that is largely unidentified by the majority of the population. It is ultimately a crime that stems from archaic social structures. Yet, the practice has survived and is substantially present every day, all around us.

It was a shocking statistic to the attendees of the “Not My Life” screening, that there are upwards of 27 million people enslaved across the world. These human beings are the products of a massive $32 billion dollar human trafficking industry. Be it through domestic servitude, factory labor or prostitution, the trafficking issue displays common threads of mass exploitation and inhumane conditions.

“Not My life” is a documentary by Robert Gilheimer endeavoring to reveal the dire conditions of human trafficking and its various forms. Each segment of the film catalogues a different place and system, culminating in a visual essay documenting the entire world. The problem is thus revealed to be a global one. Every country is a culprit in harboring this travesty, and the United States is no exception.

This is perhaps the most traumatizing epiphany. While we attend school, enjoy holidays with our families, eat our three daily meals and map out our futures, women and children are being traded and sold. Not just at the border or in the middle nowhere, in fact, it is happening right here.

Macon itself has a stake in the industry, and although it may not be readily apparent, it is taking place right under our noses. You may have seen the ads around middle Georgia that say “Georgia’s Not Buying It.” This is a slogan campaigned by the legislature of Georgia to raise awareness of the crimes being committed in the state.

To speak about Georgia’s condition in the matter, Attorney General Sam Olens gave a speech and answered questions following the film. He made it apparent that conditions are indeed improving but that there is still a long way to go. The potential for such an industry is made possible by old-world beliefs about the civil rights of women and slaves. While we live in a substantially more progressive society, those sentiments still exist.

Olens suggests that we call it what it really is in most of America: sex trafficking. 55 percent of those trafficked are women and girls, as sexual exploitation makes up 79 percent of the human trafficking industry.

The efforts to stop this are centered on inducing fear of consequence in the criminals who take part in the trade. Olens claims that this fear is the only way to negate demand. If it is made obvious that the deed will not go unpunished, then customers will rethink their actions. The minimum for any sexual offense is five years in prison. The minimum for dealing or handling a prostitute has been raised from 10 to 50 years in prison.

Following the attorney general was an appearance by a survivor of the slave trade, who for the sake of privacy will remain anonymous. She tentatively but courageously shared her story in a Q&A format with a Victim’s Assistant from Homeland Security. Having emigrated from overseas, she arrived with the expectation of finding new opportunities in the United States. However, her minimal family support forced her to the street in no time. She was coerced into working for a pimp, for whom she became a product of the heinous industry.

Seeing this girl in person made the fact of the matter quite real. Films and television programs may raise some awareness, but it is a very tangible tragedy and affects the very people with whom we interact on a daily basis.

It is important that the community realizes how critical the situation is and that we endeavor to get involved in the fight against human trafficking. To truly solve the equation, it will become the responsibility of every one of us to fight this barbaric institution.