College students help create human trafficking documentary
By Gabriella Vigil
Citizens sometimes step in to solve problems that bureaucracy can’t.
Bridging the Gap, a charitable organization based in Portland, Oregon, partnered with Clackamas Community College to produce the documentary “Human Trafficking: Portland” which premiered Sept. 25, 2023 at McMenamins Kennedy School.
Bridging the Gap is best known for creating a mobile app to help contact law enforcement in a more efficient manner.
Bridging the Gap approached CCC to help build a commercial for their new app; the result was a 40-minute documentary created with help from CCC students.
Due to delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the process of editing the intense content, the documentary took about two and a half years to finish.
The film tells the story of Andrea Benson, her introduction to and journey through being sex trafficked known as “The Life,” and seeking help exiting it. The documentary also discusses the widespread problem of human trafficking in Portland, Oregon.
“This is the highest level of organized crime out there,” said Allie Martin, Advocate and Director of Programs for Safety Compass, a Salem-based nonprofit offering support for victims of sexual violence and exploitation. “This is the most profitable for gangs and pimps and exploiters”.
There are 12 states, known as the “dirty dozen,” which have the worst human trafficking rates. Oregon is 7 on the list. Oregon alone identified 746 victims over a 12-month period.
“This happens in every community. And if people don’t think it’s going on, they’re just not seeing it,” said Angela Hollan, detective for the Portland Police Bureau’s Human Trafficking Unit.
Currently, the Portland Trafficking Unit has only 3 officers and 2 detectives. There are efforts to combat human trafficking but due to budget cuts and political issues, it’s much more difficult.
With a massive technology shift over the past years, the traditional methods of human trafficking are done much differently. Traffickers are shifting from targeting people on the streets, to targeting people online.
“Now I would say the vast majority, and well in excess of 90-95%, would begin online,” said Dr. Christopher Carey, criminology and criminal justice professor at Portland State University.
Mark Devendorf, co-producer of the film, agrees.
“It used to be you’d have to be on the streets to get solicited into trafficking,” Devendorf said, “Now it’s done all through apps, and the buying and selling, luring of girls, all happens through apps,”
“I think it’s really important for kids and adults, the parents,” he said, “a lot of the films that are made about this are 10 years old, and they don’t really talk about social media.”
Almost two dozen CCC students worked on the film, with jobs ranging from lighting, to sound, to conducting interviews. One of those students, Bailey Bonney, shared her love of filmmaking.
The documentary is exclusively on Vimeo and currently private on the CCC cable channel. The film will soon be public on Vimeo for others to watch.
If you or anyone you know is a victim of human trafficking and seeking help, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or 971-235-0021 for Safety Compass advocates in Portland.