The horror of human trafficking for either sex or labor is a huge problem across the world. Documentaries about the problem are sent to the Film Threat HQ on a regular basis. Most of these films deal with the issue abroad, most recently with The Rescue List. From filmmaker Melody C. Miller, California’s Forgotten Children tackles the issue from our own backyard in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Let’s face it. The plight of commercially sexually exploited children is happening all across the state and the nation.
California’s Forgotten Children covers the gamut of child sex trafficking in the 92-minute doc. First, the extent of the problem as victims, pedophiles, and traffickers know no race, gender, or affluence. The film starts with the devastating statistics that 2,000 children go missing each year. While many victims are foreign-born, 75% were born in the U.S, and a high number are children caught in the foster care system.
“…75% were born in the U.S, and a high number are children caught in the foster care system.”
Children often come from homes where they’re neglected or abused. Many wind up running away from home to regain power away from their families, only to fall into another form of dominance from their slave owner. Each victim is subjected to an average of 6,000 encounters netting their abusers over $1,000 a night.
California’s Forgotten Children tells its stories from brave women and men who were once victims and the heroes who risk their lives and reputations to rescue, help and rehabilitate. While using the standard talking head testimony, director Miller also incorporates a great deal of B-roll footage and reenactments to accompany the testimony.
Alongside the horrific stories of victims, Miller also tackles some of the legal and cultural issues. For example, California law is still wrestling over the way it tends to favor the child rapists while providing little help and protection for its victims. While law enforcement sees arresting victims as a way of “rescuing” these children, there is little that they can actually do to help.
The adage that “prostitution is a victimless crime” is challenged pretty hard in this documentary as the vast majority of girls and boys were forced and manipulated into prostitution. This is a lifestyle that no one would ever want for themselves or others.
“…the stories of numerous victims who couldn’t see living past their childhood and overcome the past their pain to help others.”
Culturally speaking, the documentary also takes on the “pimp-lifestyle” of the hip-hop and rap music industry and its flagrant misogyny and its subtle influence on its listeners both young and old. We hear the story of one young lady seduced into the world of modeling and music videos which was a front for physical abuse and sexual slavery.
The effects of child sex trafficking are devastating on its victims, California’s Forgotten Children spends a great deal of the latter half of the documentary showing hope. It shows the changes law enforcement in Oakland has made to provide advocates for victims that are not law enforcement but can be a resource and support if desired. You’ll also hear the stories of numerous victims who couldn’t see living past their childhood and overcome the past their pain to help others.
At the end of the documentary, we are introduced to over a dozen organizations dedicated to taking child sex trafficking head-on including Heat Watch, Misssey, California Against Slavery, Ending the Game and the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking.
With 1 out of 5 girls and 1 out of 6 boys sexually exploited by the time they reach adulthood, California’s Forgotten Children is an important documentary to watch. There is a problem. There are heroes. There is hope.
California’s Forgotten Children (2018) Directed by Melody C. Miller. California’s Forgotten Children screened at the 2018 Newport Beach Film Festival.
4 out of 5 stars