BY SUSAN SCAFFIDI Contributing writer
Although the events in "Trade of Innocents" take place in Cambodia, local viewers shouldn't consider human trafficking a scourge only of the Third World.
It's global. And it's local.
Symposium on human trafficking
When: 9 a.m. Saturday
Where: Icardo Center at CSUB, 9001 Stockdale Highway
Admission: $20, available at tradeofinnocentsresources.com/events. The ticket includes admission to the film, playing at Maya Cinemas from Oct. 12-18.
"Bakersfield is the 'vortex' of the trucking industry, a hub between San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas," said Jim Schmidt, one of the producers of the film, who said traffickers use truck stops in their dirty trade.
"We know that's how girls are being moved around," Schmidt said.
"Innocents" ends with some alarming statistics about the size and scope of human trafficking worldwide, as well as the film's motto and a call to action: "Justice Needs a Hero. Be One."
To bring that point home, the film's West Coast premiere on Friday will be followed by a half-day symposium starting at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Icardo Center at CSUB. Attendees will hear from panelists representing the FBI, state and local law enforcement and legislators, and individuals who work directly with victims, both in rescue operations and treatment, called "aftercare."
One of the panelists is Phil Gazley, who has spent the last 11 years researching, educating and coordinating various organizations in the fight against human trafficking, first in Colorado, and now in Kern County. Gazley, who has lived in Tehachapi for the last two years, said he found people were ready to get involved.
"What I discovered was there was a lot of growing interest, a growing list of questions into the issues of human trafficking," Gazely said.
Gazely said the definition of "human trafficking" extends beyond the sex trade -- it's any use of a human being for the purposes of forced labor.
"You can find (slaves) anywhere," said Bill Bolthouse. "Where labor is cheap and people can get workers -- mostly immigrants -- where they lock them up and just put them away."
The film's website includes links to two other sites, one that provides statistics, information and tickets for events such as this weekend's symposium, and another that connects to Justice-Generation.com, an advocacy site that includes various organizations that work together to fight slavery.
Gazley said the organizations are critical to winning the battle.
"We really can't end the tragedy and the horror of this without working together," Gazley said.
Gazley said a good part of the symposium will deal with "practical matters" -- law enforcement, medical services and victims' services.
"We've actually formed a coalition (in Kern County)," Gazley said. "It's basically just a group of organizations that are concerned about human trafficking."