USC World Vision ACT:S and the School of Cinematic Arts co-hosted a screening of The Abduction of Eden with a subsequent panel discussion on Tuesday at the Albert and Dana Broccoli Theatre.
Panelists included the screenwriter Richard Phillips, Guido Hajenius, a branch coordinator for the NGO iEmpathize Southern California and Jessica Peet from the School of International Relations. The panel was moderated by Michelle Lau, the co-president and founder of World Vision ACT:S.
The screening, funded by USG, was part of World Vision’s March campaign on human trafficking.
“I came across [The Abduction of Eden] on Netflix, and I was so moved by it that I thought, ‘USC has to see this,’” Lau said. “My Christian faith convicted me to not only learn about the issue more but also to take action and provide concrete steps for students to change this injustice that is happening here in America.”
The film is based on the true story of Korean American Chong Kim, who was kidnapped and forced into prostitution but eventually gained her captors’ trust and escaped.
“I came across a small article about Kim, and I reached out to her, but by the end of our phone call I wasn’t sure if I could go with it because it was so horrific that I thought it would be unfilmable,” said Richard Phillips Jr., the film’s screenwriter. “This is focusing on a domestic issue in America that people would be shocked about, and so I thought it should be told and people should know about it.”
The panelists also discussed their views about human trafficking and the means of addressing it.
“There does have to be a shift from not just prosecuting the exploiter but emphasizing the education of the clients,” Hajenius said. “Truckers think it’s [the girls’] choice and so as we begin to engage them in identifying the situation, it will open their eyes in understanding that there is exploitation behind the rise of child pornagraphy, for instance, instead of villainizing them.”
USC World Vision ACT:S plans to host Empathy Week in Founders Park from March 24-27 as a weeklong campaign to raise awareness and advocacy for human trafficking. There will be three events including the mattress vigil, an art exhibit, a magic show to demonstrate to students how girls are deceived into being trafficked and more. This will be a collaboration with multiple student organizations including USC Korean Campus Ministries, the United Nations Children’s Fund at USC, Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation, Student Coalition for Asian Pacific Empowerment and USC’s United House of Prayer.
“We talk about how modern slavery is not just a criminal issue but it is a cultural issue.” Hajenius said. “The majority of our culture has a heart for this issue but there is a gap between us and the issue. The big step from sympathy to empathy is to enter in the suffering of the victims. Empathy Week is really about empowering and equipping students to not just know about the issue but begin to share these stories.”