'Children for Sale' evokes shock and hope for change

Story highlights

  • "Children for Sale: The Fight to End Human Trafficking" looks at trafficking in the U.S.
  • Many viewers were surprised to learn how close to home the issue is
Watch "Children for Sale: The Fight to End Human Trafficking" Sunday at 7 p.m. ET or on CNNgo.

(CNN)Sex trafficking isn't just something happening in Third World countries. It's happening in the United States, every day.

The CNN Freedom Project and actress and director Jada Pinkett Smith partnered to explore this complicated web of human sex trafficking and how each of us can help stop it.
"Children for Sale: The Fight to End Human Trafficking" premiered Tuesday on CNN. The special report sparked a strong reaction from viewers, many who were shocked to learn that people were being sold for sex so close to home.
    Many viewers found the personal stories heartbreaking. "Sacharay" shared her story of being trafficked when she was just 14.
    Rachel McCool, who like Sacharay has been able to start fresh, said in the documentary there wasn't a time when she didn't know what sex was. Her story struck a chord.
    McCool described working at what appeared to be a strip club, but which functioned more like a modern-day brothel. Brandi Richard, a public speaker and advocate, tweeted that she now thinks differently about the attractiveness of some strip clubs after watching the documentary.
    Social media users emphasized that even though it might be a tough issue to talk about, it's worth educating people about sex trafficking.
    Leading up to the documentary, Pinkett Smith joined CNN for a Facebook chat and answered questions from the audience.
    Asked what we can do to educate sons and daughters about this issue, Pinkett Smith said sex trafficking is a difficult topic but an important conversation.
    "I wish I could tell you that there is an easy way to talk about this subject matter," she said. "I've only found that the most effective way is to be honest with your children about the issue."
    The average age a child is first trafficked is 13 or 14, according to a U.S. Department of Justice report published in 2010.
    Children are often vulnerable, in part, because of a lack of attention in their homes.
    The Twitter community urged parents to show their children love and attention on a regular basis.
    Facebook users also asked what steps could be taken to help end sex trafficking and what they could do to protect their loved ones.
    "There are many organizations that have fantastic survivor speaker networks that can send survivors to your school, church or local community center to tell their stories," Pinkett Smith said. "It is very impactful to hear directly from survivors on how they were targeted, how they were able to escape and ultimately survive."
    Viewers also expressed a sense of urgency and a hope for change.
    If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888.