(Caution: Adult content.)
It wasn’t enough for writer and producer Benjamin Nolot.
He founded Exodus Cry. The international anti-trafficking organization is dedicated to ending sex slavery through Christ-centered prevention, intervention and holistic restoration for victims.
But he wanted to do more.
So, he made “Nefarious: Merchant of Souls.” The award-winning documentary exposes the dark world of the global sex slavery epidemic. He and his crew traveled to 19 countries spanning from North and Central America to Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Though released in 2011, the documentary is being screened throughout the world. And there are ways for individuals to host a screening in their hometown. It’s also available on DVD.
Nolot took some time to chat with CitizenLink about the behind-the-scenes world of the powerful documentary.
CitizenLink: Human-trafficking is such a dark topic. How has working on this film changed your perspective of humanity and how do you balance it out — how do you deal with it?
Benjamin Nolot: Prior to understanding that human-trafficking was going on I was just a lot more out of touch with the acute injustice that occurs on our world. Waking up to this reality has really created empathy in me for those that suffer injustice in our world. There are two things that happened: One is just the acknowledgement and the recognition that “Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe this is going on.” That eye-opening dimension of just having my eyes opened to it. The second part of it is recognizing that what is going on is actually deeply, deeply awful. In that place of compassion it really led me to the Lord in a much deeper, more intimate way to identify with His heart concerning the things that are going on in our world today. For me, tackling the issue of human-trafficking has been a very tender journey to friendship with Jesus in which His emotion has been imparted to me and I can weep over what’s happening, but then I can go out in His compassion and I can make a difference. And I can even bring His joy for justice into the lives of those I am trying to reach out to.
CL: What kinds of challenges did you face in producing ‘Nefarious’?
BN: We really wanted to provide an intelligent insight into understanding not just what is going on but why is it going on. Given that context, that the number one challenge for us was purely along those lines of gaining clear understanding as to why human-trafficking is going on: We felt that was key to ultimately to bringing about change. And so that became in and of itself a journey of discovery for us.
CL: What role would you say pornography plays in sex-trafficking?
BN: In our investigation, we have seen that pornography is really the marketing for prostitution. Anytime you go into a red-light district what you’re going to see is an area littered with pornography. What they’re trying to do is awaken the potential consumer through a hard-core pornographic image to the possibility that he might be able to actually have a real-world encounter. Pornography really feeds the sex industry in that way. Pornography is fueling the demand for prostitution, which is what necessitates sex-trafficking. We need to look at a much more comprehensive and holistic, legislative approach to dealing with the sex industry and its implications upon our society. We need much stronger legislation across the board. For too long we have let the pornography industry get away with the notion that what they are doing is protected under the First Amendment. I don’t think that pornography is at all what our Forefathers intended through that amendment. We have completely overlooked the balance between responsibility and freedom. And we have adopted the notion of freedom completely disconnected from responsibility. The result is that we have allowed our children to grow up in a culture of pornography and this has massively hijacked their sexuality. We are actually grooming and socializing young men to become johns from their youth through the perpetuation of online pornography. This assaults their view of women and assaults their view of a healthy sexuality. We have to take a good look at the pornographic industry. Now if you begin to have that discussion you’ll have all kinds of people say censorship and you’re not allowing freedom of speech, but I don’t think that’s the case. I think that we really have to see pornography as an issue of hate speech. I don’t know any other context in which you can get away with the kinds of things that are said in pornography and the kind of depictions that happen in pornography. We do have the tools within our legal system to formulate better laws to prosecute pornography, and to inhibit its production from continuing to degrade and humiliate woman as these disposable sex objects. Right now our obscenity laws are not nearly clear enough in terms of how you can actually interpret what is obscenity and what is not obscenity. Pornographers have no idea where the boundaries are. The judicial system has no idea where the boundaries are. It’s just “we’ll know it when we see it.”
CL: What can the United States do as far as creating policies to eradicate sex-trafficking in this country?
BN: In Sweden, they passed progressive legislation that criminalizes the johns, but offers services and programs to the women. And this has all but eradicated the sex industry in Sweden. It’s also shaped a cultural mindset that esteems the value of women and puts the onus of responsibility for why they’re in the sex industry upon men because without the demand there is no prostitution industry though prostitution is not about a bunch of hyper-sexualized seductive women going over and seducing all of us well-meaning men. So I think that’s very progressive legislation by Sweden and I would like to see us adopt something similar in the United States in terms of prosecuting heavily the men who purchase sex but offering programs to the women.
CL: How can each one of us make a difference and help defeat sex-trafficking?
BN: There are three main things that anybody from any walk of life can participate in. The first one is in the area of prayer: praying for the lives of those who are oppressed in the sex industry; praying for the lives of men who are blinded by their own lusts and are purchasing these women for their own self sensual gratification; praying for the traffickers whose lives have become so overwhelmed with darkness that they completely overlook the destruction of the lives of the people that they enslave. We need prayer going up for our own cities, our own backyards. We need prayer going up for this issue on a global and a national scale. The second thing is in the area of awareness — meaning education. Bringing an understanding to the masses not about just what is going on buy why it’s going on. We all have a part in using our voice within our sphere of influence to help shine a light on this injustice. Because the reality is, Satan traffics in darkness. He traffics in the shadows — that’s where he lurks. So part of the goal needs to be to shine a light on this. By virtue of that, more voices will begin to rise up and we can reach a sort of critical mass where we actually shift the landscape. We can shift the tide on this evil injustice of human-trafficking. The third thing is that all people can be involved is an area of giving. There are organizations and individuals who are working on the front lines to do incredible work to save people out of the sex industry. There are groups launching incredible awareness initiatives or working with victims themselves and bringing about counseling and restoration.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Learn how to take a stand against sex-trafficking.
Learn how to host a screening of the documentary.
Learn more about “Nefarious: Merchant of Souls.”
Learn more about Exodus Cry.