What is currently on your mind?
LAURA: The panel that we put together for World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. For a very long time, we have wanted to have a discussion about sex trafficking and exploitation led by survivors, and in a time where we are all vulnerable, we knew we had to have that conversation now.
Has this project changed you or your perspective on things and how?
VANESSA: When we optioned the book for Saving Zoë almost 13 years ago, we did it because we wanted to take creative control over our careers. We knew wanted to transition into producing and we knew we wanted to tell a story that said something important. That being said, we had no idea that we would have such an opportunity for this type of activism. Getting to take our film to the UN and getting to meet and interview survivors of exploitation along the way has been a life changing experience. We learned so much about sex trafficking and online sexual exploitation through this process. We learned about things we never even thought about through talking with survivors. Ultimately, that's why we wanted to do this panel and give others the same opportunity we have had to listen and learn.
What are the good things that have come out of 2020?
LAURA: I think 2020 has made us take a really hard look at ourselves as individuals. We have been forced to look within and deal with both our flaws and trauma head on, and though that has been extremely challenging, I think it was very necessary. We can only grow as individuals and as a society by dealing with our issues in an honest and authentic way, and this time has made it much harder to hide from ourselves. I keep seeing this poem going around the internet about 2020 being the year that we all needed to grow, and I really connected with that. Hopefully, 2020 has changed us for the better.
What changes do we need in society? In the future, how would you look back on 2020 and describe it?
VANESSA: I think 2020 is going to be our generation's "When I was young, I used to have to walk a mile the snow" story. We will be constantly reminding the next generation of quarantine and sanitizing and they'll think we're crazy because they didn't experience it firsthand. The other thing that will hopefully stick with us, and that we can impart on the next generation, is the idea that it's not all about you. We are a society. We are all human. We have to make sacrifices for the good of our fellow human beings. Even if we aren't directly affected by something, it's our responsible to support those who are. We have seen this with Corona and we have also seen this with the protesting. This isn't the first generation to experience a pandemic and this isn't the first generation to speak up about racism; however, it's so easy to get complacent when you haven't had a firsthand account of these experiences. And let's face it, we were complacent. So, hopefully, we will continue to do the work and keep reminding ourselves of this time, so that the generations after us don't fall prey to that same complacency.
What is still left undiscussed in the anti-racism debate that we need to discuss?
LAURA: There are so many things that we still need to keep discussing, but one thing that hasn't been discussed much (and something we do talk about in our panel) is how black and brown girls/boys/men/women are more at risk with sex trafficking and exploitation, and yet receive less help and media coverage. We had people submit questions, and one question that we received which broke my heart was how do we get more coverage to missing and exploited black children because there is barely any coverage on them. Advocates Melanie Thompson and Cristian Eduardo lead the conversation on this topic, and answer the question in such a powerful, articulate, and raw way.
How do you think we'll go from here, post-corona? (what has definitively changed)
VANESSA: Everything. Everything has changed. I think it's naive to think we're ever going back to normal. Yes, things will get less intense; however, the thought of even attempting to go a large gathering or crowded bar freaks me out. I think will see small changes, like more people carrying around bottles hand sanitizer or package of disinfecting wipes for years to come. Hopefully, less stigma from employers about staying home from work if you feel like you're getting sick. But the big changes I think we are going to see will pertain to the economy. It is going to take a long time for that to stabilize. So, many people have been financially affected and so may have been emotionally affected. People have lost jobs and people have lost friends and family. It takes a long time to recover from loss.
What are you most proud of in your life?
LAURA: Producing Saving Zoë is one of the proudest moments of my life. Not only did I realize how much I love producing, but being able to show and use the film as a tool for advocates to talk about online sexual exploitation has been incredible. I had to pinch myself when we were at the UN.
VANESSA: I would have to say the same thing. We are so thrilled that film has been able to reach people and encourage a dialogue about the issue of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. Having a panel discussion with survivors as well as having the ability to put that footage out there and directly reach people is incredible. We're humbled that we are in a position to spread awareness and we want to continue to do so.