APPLETON, Wis. - The Wildwood Film Festival normally puts a premium on local talent.
But this year, it is going a step further--It is putting the spotlight on the battle against sex trafficking.
The movie on everyone's radar this year puts an abusive crime into perspective.
It is called "Innocence Sold," and it takes the seedy business of sex trafficking head on.
"She moved here with a boyfriend," says Paul Evansen, the moderator for Friday's conversation about sex trafficking. "Her mother lives out of the area. All she has is in the bag that she's carrying. She doesn't have a phone--it was taken from her."
He says any of these can be a red flag...a warning.
Except that was not Hollywood. It was real life.
"I was fortunate enough in that opportunity to be able to direct this young woman to the Appleton Police Department," said Evansen.
Lt. Jeff Miller from the Appleton Police Department tells me that sex trafficking in Northeast Wisconsin has increased in the past 5-to-10 years, with hundreds of cases hitting our area yearly.
One sex trafficking arrest was made in the Fox Cities just last week.
And that is what the locally shot "Innocence Sold" is all about--identifying the crime and showing us the mental toll it can create.
It is a crime that hinges on fooled emotions.
"An adult, male or female, taking interest in a younger child," says Abby Persons of Outagamie Youth and Family Services. "Making them think that they are in a relationship with them--a boyfriend, girlfriend. They capitalize on that relationship."
The film festival opens with a conversation on what the community can do to minimize this crime in our community, and we can work on a large part of it right away by simply paying attention.
"Parents, friends, other professionals, people in school, teachers--they play a huge part in recognizing the signs and then offering help," says persons.
You can join the conversation at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in Appleton this Friday at 3pm.
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