Hands Off This Girl: One Woman’s Fight To Help End the Sex Trafficking of Children

By Shandra McDonald-Bradford

You don’t know what you don’t know until you know it. Before I became a mother in 2008 to a wonderful little boy, I was a godmother to twin girls and a boy. All my babies are precious to me. And I could never imagine them getting caught up in the dangerous world of sex trafficking until I met a stripper on Craig’s List a few years ago while looking for some writing opportunities.

We spent a year working on a screenplay about her life of living between the two worlds of prostitution and stripping because she was addicted to the money she was making. I was so naïve about these worlds, especially the stories she told me about the abuse and murders of prostitutes.

Her experience moved me, so much so that I spent the next four years educating others and myself about the pervasiveness of human trafficking, particularly where I live in Atlanta. Last year when I attended a Bronze Lens Film Festival screening of a film about sex trafficking, I was startled by the statistics a woman from World Changers Church International was dropping. I ended up connecting with their Prestige ministry, which bolsters the self-esteem and self-worth of women involved in the sex industry.

Visiting strip clubs with Prestige, I met another former stripper and prostitute who was part of the ministry and shared heart-wrenching stories about the link between these two worlds. As I learned more, my passion drove my research and as a filmmaker, I was compelled to begin creating a project that would make a difference. Hands Off This Girl is a web series that will explore the tragedies young women face in the world of prostitution and human trafficking, while exposing the epidemic proportions of this problem.

On the eve of my company Kiss the Limit Productions launching our fundraising campaign for Hands Off This Girl, I am reminded that children are why I’m so passionate about this series. My goddaughters are teenagers now. When I learned from one of our supporters, the Georgia advocacy organization, A Future. Not a Past., that 13 is the average age girls enter into prostitution, my first thought was, “Oh, this could not happen to any kids who I know and love. This epidemic can’t touch them. They come from good homes with parents who have good jobs. This is not their reality.”

But I was deluding myself. The truth of the matter is that this just is not true.  Children from all types of homes and socioeconomic backgrounds are at risk for being manipulated into this world.

As a matter of fact, A Future. Not a Past. reports that in Georgia, 7,200 men have sex knowingly and unknowingly with adolescent girls each month. That statistic knocked me out, even though I’d encountered the world of sex trafficking before.

In 2006, my business partner Nancy Howard and I were on the board of Women in Film & Television / Atlanta. It was during this time that the organization created Emmy-award winning public service announcements centering on child prostitution for then Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin’s “Dear John Campaign.”

Six years later, sex trafficking is still occurring in Atlanta in an even bigger way. The federal authorities count Atlanta as one of the top hubs for human trafficking in the country. And what blanketed the streets years ago has now moved to the Internet and become a $39 billion global industry, according to the United Nations.

Because Kiss the Limit Productions has always stayed true to its mission of telling stories that will transform people’s lives, I knew that a web series about the sex trafficking could not only expose the pernicious ways that predators capture and violate young women, but also how these tragedies affect entire communities.

Think about it. Each of these girls, many of whom are kidnapped and forced into this life, have family, friends, church members and organizations that care about them. Their lives are devastated as well when their young women go missing and, if found, who come back to them broken, abused, violated or even dead. One of our partners, Anne Kerr, director of the 24-7 hotline and rescue organization Out of Darkness, says that once a girl gets into the world of sex trafficking her average life span is seven years.

What started out years ago as a mission to equip myself, my friends and my family about knowing how to protect our children has evolved into a “call to action” for Shandra the filmmaker—especially because this world is still very hidden in the media. Thankfully, we’ve got all kinds of expertise on board, from district attorneys and police departments who take down predators to social service organizations that rescue and help these victims transition back into full and safe lives.

I’m committed to this project because I love all the children in my life, and even one more girl that gets involved in prostitution is one too many. This series will shed light on this scourge in all of our backyards by telling compelling, narrative stories that bring this epidemic into “plain view.” Any support you can provide—sharing this post on Facebook and Twitter, volunteering with an anti-trafficking organization, reporting suspicious behavior you see, or contributing to the development of our Hands Off This Girl web series via our IndieGogo campaign—will be greatly appreciated. Your help will make a difference in the lives of victimized young girls.

Help end the sex trafficking of children by contributing to the making of the Hands Off This Girl webseries. No amount is too small and every dollar donated would be greatly appreciated. To donate or get more information about Hands Off This Girl, click here.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

3 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for sharing Shandra’s story about why she decided to produce a web series about the sex trafficking epidemic. As the parent of a girl child, my heart is broken when I hear stories about how young girls are forced into this life, abused and sometimes killed. I appreciate My Brown Baby for helping to raise awareness about this serious issue, especially since I’m a member of the team producing Hands Off This Girl. As Shandra says, one more girl involved in prostitution is one girl too many.

  2. The anti-sex traffic group I joined are more involved internationally, and I want to be involved in American sex trafficking of children. Where and who can I contact?

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