Documentary made in metro Detroit focuses on demand of human trafficking

National Human Trafficking Hotline 1-888-373-7888 (TTY: 771) or text 233733
Men Who Buy Sex documentary
Posted at 10:27 PM, Feb 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-23 23:09:17-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — A new movie about human trafficking made right here in metro Detroit has now been released to the public.

The movie called “Men Who Buy Sex” was made by the Wayne County Medical Society Foundation and Digital Media Works. It focuses on the demand side of human trafficking, hoping to bring an end to the epidemic.

The film may be new, but the problem is not. Sex trafficking has existed in metro Detroit for decades, and experts say it’s still happening everyday.

“Absolutely, human trafficking is something that is happening every day,” said Amy Allen, a forensic interview specialist with Homeland Security Investigations. "We know there are lots of youth and women being trafficked every day here in the metro Detroit area.”

Allen is based out in metro Detroit and works with sex trafficking victims in the region. She says many of them report being trafficked up to 12 or 13 times a day to paying customers.

“The demand side of trafficking has really been something that hasn’t been talked about that much,” Allen said.

That’s why the demand is the focus of the new documentary. It includes interviews with Allen and other experts, advocates and survivors.

“If we keep purchasing commercial sex or if men keep purchasing commercial sex, it drives up the demand of human trafficking, which puts vulnerable people in danger,” the producer of the film, Lisa Jackson, said.

“If there were no buyer, then I wouldn't be here tonight," sex trafficking survivor Theresa Flores said. "I would have no story if we didn’t have buyers.”

Flores is one of the survivors featured in the film. She says she was groomed and trafficked when she was just a teenager living in Birmingham. She now works as an advocate, starting her own anti-trafficking organization called Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution.

“I can save victims all day long with our SOAP outreach, but I wouldn’t have to do that if we went after the buyer,” Flores said.

Another survivor, Rita O'Brien, was also featured in the film and attended the premiere. She says she was trafficked as a little girl by her own father while growing up in West Michigan. She now works as an advocate, and hopes the film will educate the public.

“I really hope this film accomplishes showing how much people buy sex and how much young people get sucked in on their phones," O'Brien said. "It’s not the white vans, it’s not the kidnappings at the mall. I think they get sucked in out of desperation.”

Those behind this film hope to shed light on the issue of sex trafficking by shining a light on the ones who allow it to happen.

“We need the community to understand that the "Johns" and the people buying the sex are part of the problem,” Allen said.

“I really want law enforcement and anyone who watches it to be like, wow, we need to take a stronger stance against the guys that buy sex,” Flores said.

The film is now available online to the public. You can watch it on Vimeo.

If you or someone you know needs help, you can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 (TTY: 771) or text 233733. The line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.