I have been asked to comment on Elijah Rising’s involvement in the recent A&E documentary “8 Minutes,” which was filmed in Houston during late 2014.
Part of ER’s mandate is to drive the reality of modern-day slavery into the conscience of our city. Because of this, we cooperate with media as best we can and maintain amiable relationships with several of its members. Despite breaches of trust caused by some, we will continue to cooperate with media, as it is generally a reliable awareness tool.
However, the production values and methods used by “8 Minutes” in no way reflect the methods and values of ER. Although we made the opportunity to participate in production available to our wide network of volunteers, I had reservations about the show’s integrity early on and expressed these to the film crew.
Some of these concerns had the potential to damage the resource network for women exiting sexual exploitation that ER and other organizations have worked to build and maintain. Much more importantly, they had the potential to further exploit victims of sex trafficking in our city.
ER never advocates that adult women making a change as drastic as leaving the commercial sex trade do so in as little as 8 minutes. We do not advocate paying women to stage exits. We do not make fantastical promises to women we try to help.
Coercing a woman to exit the sex industry is not only harmful—it further robs her of the free agency that has already been badly distorted by her traffickers. In fact, our empirical data shows that when an adult woman takes between 7 and 21 days to decide to exit, her longterm likelihood of remaining out of that lifestyle grows dramatically.
Watching the “victory” of a woman exiting the life might feel good for the viewer. But when that decision is made under duress, it can compound the shame and feelings of worthlessness already so prevalent among victims of this type of injustice. The completion of the show for the viewer is only the first step in a very long process of recovery for the abused woman.
As a Christian organization, ER is called not only to encounter women in the places of their exploitation, but to walk alongside them in the difficult and messy recovery process. Would that other members in the Body—representatives of Jesus himself—be called to the same.
With any questions or observations about “8 Minutes” or ER’s methodology of intervention, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. To become more involved in our intervention work, visit elijahrising.org.
Founder and Director