Episode One: Sex Trafficking in the USA


By matherc

The Department of Justice estimates that there are 300,000 children at risk of being trafficked into sexual slavery in the U.S. A Path Appears introduces individual survivors behind these shocking numbers, and illuminates the widespread existence of a crime happening in our own backyards.

In this episode, Ashley Judd and Nicholas Kristof meet Shana Goodwin, whose earliest memories are of being sexually abused by her grandfather. Shana guides them through the streets of Nashville where she was first sold to a pimp by her mother at the age of 12.

A Nashville pimp describes what he expects of his girls

Through Shana, we meet a pimp waiting on three of his girls to return with “$40, no less,” women actively in the life, and other women like Shana who, through the intervention of the widely-acclaimed Magdalene program, have managed to leave prostitution behind and find a new life.

In Boston, Kristof is joined by Blake Lively as they visit the nationally recognized anti-trafficking organization My Life My Choice. One of the founders of the organization, Audrey Morrissey, is a survivor of forced prostitution and drug addiction. After almost 20 years on the street, she now mentors young victims and trains future generations of survivors to become mentors themselves.

Maria witnesses her 15-year-old daughter being sold online

Audrey introduces Kristof and Lively to Maria, a mother who fears her missing daughter has fallen prey to a trafficker. The episode captures the devastating moment when Maria sees her 15-year-old daughter being sold online as well as the relief that follows from her daughter’s successful recovery.

They also meet young trafficking survivor Savannah, who was stalked by an older man on a “sugar-daddy” website and then sold and held in sexual bondage. Months into her recovery, she is rebuilding her relationship with her mother, whose own history sheds light on the generational nature of trauma and exploitation.

In Chicago, Kristof and Malin Akerman visit Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart as his department coordinates the annual nationwide Day of Johns Arrest, going behind the scenes on sting operations to crack down on the buyers of sex.

The Chicago sheriff’s department cracks down on johns

Approximately 15 percent of American men regularly purchase sex, but few are ever penalized. By focusing on the demand side of the multi-billion dollar trafficking industry — a criminal enterprise on par with guns and second only to drugs — Sheriff Dart and his team are leading the country in reshaping law enforcement’s response to prostitution and trafficking. They are also re-framing a dialogue in which those in prostitution have been penalized and blamed rather than treated as victims.

The episode concludes with a return to Nashville to revisit the Magdalene program’s social business, Thistle Farms, which provides survivors with the full range of services necessary to their healing as well as essential job skills. Led by Reverend Becca Stevens, the program proves that while the reality is horrifying and the long-term impact on victims can be devastating, there are solutions.

Episode Guide

  • Episode One: Sex Trafficking in the USA
    Premieres Monday, January 26
    The first episode introduces survivors of sex trafficking in Nashville, Boston, and Chicago, and illuminates the widespread existence of crimes happening in our own backyards.
  • Episode Two: Breaking the Cycle of Poverty
    Premieres Monday, February 2
    Travel from West Virginia to Haiti and Colombia for stories of children and women breaking free from a life of poverty and abuse.
  • Episode Three: Violence and Solutions
    Premieres Monday, February 9
    Explore the work of organizations combating domestic violence in the U.S., and one providing a Kenyan slum’s most at-risk young girls with a path to opportunity.