MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A film that portrays the perils of human trafficking will be played at the historic Star Theatre in Berkeley Springs on Saturday.
Theatre owners Paul and Trey Johanson said they plan to host the “Sound of Freedom” film at 2 p.m. with a discussion to follow called “Human Trafficking, Here?” from 4 to 6 p.m.
Paul Johanson said it’s important to have an open conversation about the challenges and trauma that comes with human trafficking in West Virginia and hopefully the film provides more clarity to viewers.
“It will give them a chance to get the expertise and knowledge that will help them participate in what they’ve just been emotionally brought in to having a lot of concerns for human trafficking and child trafficking. They’ll feel helpless, concerned, scared, angry. Rather than just leave them in that state, people will learn how to participate, watch and care for their neighbors,” he said.
The film features a man’s attempt to rescue a child.
Katie Spriggs with the Eastern Panhandle Empowerment Center (EPEC) will be leading the discussion. She said what constitutes human trafficking could be a number of things.
“It’s essentially using force, fraud or coercion to force someone into a sex or labor act in which the trafficker is profiting from that act. The profit could be money. It could be anything of value. It could be votes,” she explained.
Spriggs said human trafficking looks different in Berkeley County compared to other parts of the state, the country and the world.
“It really is culturally different and there are certain trends that we see in Appalachia that you might not see in other places. That’s really what we’re going to focus on is number one, what is sex and labor trafficking and what does it actually look like here?” she said.
People who are trafficked are typically the most vulnerable, Spriggs said.
“If we want to talk human trafficking prevention, I think it looks a lot different than people think it looks. It looks like homelessness prevention. It looks like access to food, water and parenting because that’s who we see trafficked, the people who wouldn’t be noticed if they went missing or started acting differently,” she said.
The presenters are hoping those who attend will walk away feeling empowered to help those who are being trafficked.
A portion of the proceeds from the screening will benefit EPEC.
More information on Saturday’s screening and discussion can be found here.