Film about Sex Trafficking Survivor Chong Kim Debuts in Los Angeles March 28, 2013

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Posted on March 29, 2013

GWEN co-founder and COO, Tess Cacciatore, attended the opening of the film EDEN in Los Angeles March 28, 2013. Pictured above with Karim Alivier, GWEN Empowerment Curriculum Coach and Colin Plank, producer of EDEN.

The film EDEN made its Los Angeles debut on March 28 at the Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills. EDEN tells the story of a young Korean-American girl who is abducted near her home in New Mexico and forced into prostitution by a domestic human and drug trafficking ring located outside the bright lights of Las Vegas, Nevada. Inspired by the harrowing true story of GWEN blog contributor and anti-trafficking expert Chong Kim, EDEN peers into the darkest corners of America and attempts to discover the humanity within.

EDEN which details three years in the mid ’90s when Kim was forced into prostitution and sex slavery that started when she was 19, opened in limited release in New York March 20 through April 2, 2013, in Los Angeles March 29 through April 4, 2013 and will open in Seattle May 3 -15, 2013. The film features Jamie Chung (Hangover 2, Sucker Punch and Grown Ups), Beau Bridges (Max Payne, The Fabulous Baker Boys and Stargate SG-1), and Matt O’Leary (Brick, Live Free or Die Hard and Spy Kids 2 & 3). For more information on the film please visit the official site: http://www.edenthefilm.com/index.html.

Chong Kim has been a great supporter of GWEN and specifically the Tell Us Your Story campaign, as a regular blog contributor and also by telling her own personal story on the GWENNetwork.org site.

Watch this video interview of survivor Chong Kim, actress Jamie Chung, and director Megan Griffiths on HuffPost Live.

Tess Cacciatore Met with Alpha Omicron Pi at Southeastern Panhellenic Conference: Discussed Combating Violence on College Campuses

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Posted on March 28, 2013

While visiting Atlanta for the Southeastern Panhellenic Conference (March 21-23) Tess Cacciatore met with Alpha Omicron Pi’s  Education and Training Manager, Jodie Hassall. A great opportunity to expand the GWEN curriculum and GWEN Clubs on college campuses nationwide.

Left Unsaid

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Lately, since I’ve been networking with various service providers both faith-base and non-faith base one of the big things that I hear that actually annoys me is when they say, “These girls need to reconcile with their family,” or “This program believes in forgiveness and these family need to forgive these girls so they can go home.” The reason why this annoys me so much is that you can’t create a happy ending, it doesn’t work that way and it’s almost impossible to be done especially if the family/girl does not acknowledge a problem. We hear of stories of children reuniting with their family after abduction, child rape or even runaways, but on the surface we see this picture perfect family that gets that one time family snap shot and goes home. What most do not realize is that it’s just a new beginning for another chapter of healing and if that family wants to ignore it to move on, the reconciliation will not even happen.

I’ve spoken to many survivors of sexual abuse, rape, domestic violence and even trafficking and almost every one of them have severed ties with their family, but those who’ve never been in their shoes will shake their heads and say, “They need to reconcile so they can move on.” Do we tell battered women to reconcile with their batterers so they can be a happy couple? Do we encourage women who’ve been date raped to reconcile with their so called boyfriends or dates so they can go on and find another happy date? NO, we don’t so QUIT suggesting that bullshit line! I’m sorry, but I’m sick and tired of PRETENDING that everything will be fine by reconciliation.

The moment I returned home from Trafficking, my scenario didn’t look like the Hollywood version of reunification. We didn’t run into each others’ arms and cried and said we missed and loved one another and home-cooked meal would be waiting for us. Do you honestly want to know what most homecoming would look like? Then keep reading. I remember coming home and you could feel that cold uncomfortable feeling of tension filling the room. You don’t know what to say, your parents can’t even look at you. Unimaginable possibilities run through their mind as well, they don’t even want to know what’s even happened to you. I remember my mother would be in the kitchen and to break the silence she would say, “Are you hungry.” Even sitting down with my family around the table for the first time, it truly felt uncomfortable. All you could hear is the clattering of the silverware against the bowls or plates. My dad was so uncomfortable with the silence that he got up left to the living room to eat his food in front of the TV.

I had the look of disgust, shame and ridicule, being the oldest of a Korean-American family I should’ve known better to runaway even if I was over 18. My parents had an assumption that bad things happened to me, but I wasn’t consoled or even reminded that I was this great survivor, I never felt more empty and out of place in my life then being at the presence of my family. Even though, I knew my family’s MO, but there was this little girl in me that was hoping my parents would hold me, console me, allow me to cry my eyes out in their arms and tell me that everything will be all right, but reality hit and that did not happen at all! The first night, I unpacked what belongings I had in my old bedroom. Flashes of memories of my youth resurface, I fall on my knees to cry, but made sure that I didn’t make a whimpering sound. I was told that crying shows signs of weakness, so I was literally arguing with myself while tears flooded my heart. “Don’t cry, they’ll hear you!” I would pound my chest with agony and just wanted the pain or the emotion to go away.

The days went on pretending that everything was normal, but I knew in my heart it wasn’t. I remember one of my sisters would walk in my room and say, “I’m not glad you’re home, you’ve given mom and dad a lot of grief, so while you’re here just don’t give them a hard time.” I remained silent and ignored her. I ate, I slept and I cried in silence, inside I felt like I was slowly dying. Sundays would come and it was time for church, I honestly didn’t feel like seeing anyone from church, but my mother would give me that uncomfortable guilt of not going, I would not hear the end of her griping that I missed out on mass, so I went. People from our congregation were shocked to see me, but you could hear the whispering among themselves and when I’d walk by some of the people would even get out of my way and others were so nosey to pretend to be your friend. You could just feel that fake smile on their faces as they walk up to you and give you that extra tight squeeze hug and they say, “So, glad you’re back let’s not get into the past and just move forward.”

Seriously? Do they have any idea what I just went through? I wanted to get out of there so fast. The whole false facade really annoyed me, but you see “Jules” wanted to come out and play. “Let’s entertain these fools!” So, after a couple of weeks, I pretended too. I smiled and gave back that extra hug, then I’d relish about my soul-searching for Christ and how he came to me in my darkest hour. I smiled and shed a tear when I revealed to them that a group of Christians rescued me, housed me and fed me while I was homeless. Oops, did I forget to mention that I was homeless??? The shock came to their eyes and the smile, but the smile wasn’t the same. My parents were angry with me for telling the truth.

Gossip in our church started to form and I did my job. I embarrassed my family, because I was homeless. I got to the point where I held every pain, every horrid memory and every tear back that I just couldn’t hold it any longer. I screamed and I cried! Hoping at that moment, my parents would realize what I just gone through and praying for reconciliation, even I wanted it as much as anyone else, but it didn’t even happen. The next thing I knew my whole family yelled at me calling me a trouble-maker, whore, a disappointment to the family. I’ve shamed my family’s name.

You see, there was nothing wrong with our family, but me. I was the problem, if only I would’ve “honored” my parent’s wishes, by staying home and taking care of them I wouldn’t have gotten into this mess. I use to be naive and believe it ONLY happened to Asian-American families until I realized “pretending” comes in all cultures and races, even with White-American families as well. When we become advocates to victims/survivors of any type of abuse, do not pressure the idea of reunification, this is very IMPORTANT for social services dealing with runaways as well. You would be considered very lucky if you truly had a family that encouraged counseling, healing and being very very supportive in your journey to recovery, but those family come very far and few between. Don’t believe in the media hype or the Hollywood version of reunification, almost all of us don’t even get to return home at all. Thank you for allowing me to share, this has been on my mind for quite sometime and I wanted to share.

By: Chong N. Kim