What does sex have to do with it?
By 3G Executive Director Jane Wells
Pretty much everything. How can we talk about the genocide in Darfur without referencing sexual violence towards women? Or comprehend ISIS without recognizing their treatment of Yazidi women? At 3 Generations some were skeptical when we broadened the scope of our human rights mission, and feature documentaries, from genocide (The Devil Came on Horseback) to include sex trafficking (Tricked). Thankfully the world is finally getting on the same page. Hopefully no one will question the place of environmental degradation (our new feature A Different American Dream) in the chalice of social justice.
In June 2014 I went to North Dakota for the first time. I had heard at some of the screenings of Tricked, that young Native girls were being kidnapped off reservations to service men working on the oil fields of the Bakken Formation — the largest shale oil field in North America.
Over the course of a week I traversed the Bakken in search of my story — one about sex trafficking. What I had not expected was to be seduced by the stunning beauty of the land, nor was I prepared for the extent to which the environment was being ravaged and desecrated. I found a new, parallel story to the trafficking one, — a story I thought of as the rape of Mother Earth.
And so the idea for our new feature film A Different American Dream was born. Over the last 20 months I have been back to North Dakota six more times. This week I came to show the finished film to the members of the MHA Nation of Fort Berthold who are the principal characters in our film. It was a completion of sorts, bringing two world full circle.
As I flew home I saw this headline in the local paper: ‘Despicable’ sex trafficker gets 33 years in prison.
The investigation that lead to the conviction of the trafficker, Keith A. Graves, began in July 2014. When I visited the Bakken the first time he was actively trafficking young women for sex exactly as the whispers I heard had described. How fitting that he found justice as our film was finished.
Some people ask: What is the method at 3 Generations? Here it is: Everything is connected. Sex trafficking, genocide, environmental degradation. All these issues are happening side by side, often intertwined and very often under our noses in plain sight.
Today’s news was especially gratifying because only a week ago we were in Miamisaluting and honoring law enforcement professionals who have worked tirelessly to bring sex traffickers to justice. In a video we premiered in Miami last week we highlight how hard it is to prosecute sex trafficking.
In the Graves case today not all of the victims were able to come forward and testify. It is no easy task for a traumatized victim to face their abuser, least of all in a public court of law. The ones who did testify were very brave and impactful. As one juror reported, “Watching people relive it (the violence) right in front of you, that was difficult. You could almost sense the anxiety, the terror, in some of the victims.”
This is the change we fight for at 3 Generations and this is why we make films about subjects as diverse as sex trafficking, climate change, genocide, the refugee crisis in Syria and Death Row exonerees.
At the end of the day a broad-minded approach to social justice moves every issue forward. Sexual violence included.