Powegians raising awareness of sex trafficking
By Emily Sorensen
Two Poway women are hoping to raise awareness of sex trafficking, both locally and nationally by filming a documentary, exposing the truths about the illegal activity.
Kayla Kahn, who was born and raised in Poway, and her partner Samantha Stewart, who moved to Poway from Ohio four years ago, after meeting Kahn online, have dedicated their lives to making this documentary a reality — and helping the victims of sex trafficking.
“There’s always a root to sex trafficking,” said Stewart. “Child pornography, rape, sexual abuse.” Stewart and Kahn, who are both abuse survivors, have spent the last four years working toward their goal of raising awareness of sex trafficking, and helping the victims, with the last year being dedicated to trying to make their documentary.
Stewart and Kahn said that what makes them different from some other sex trafficking awareness groups is their willingness to work with all victims, regardless of gender. “We want to accept everyone, whether they are male or female victims,” said Stewart. The two meet often with survivors, both adults and children. “It really encourages us,” said Kahn. “It feels like people come to us and depend on us.”
Stewart and Kahn haven’t had an easy journey to where they are now. The women were homeless for nine months before Kahn, a motocross racer, managed to turn her hobby into a career, trying to raise awareness of women’s equality through her racing at the same time. Stewart served as her manager and trainer. “I thought, why are we doing this?” said Kahn. After three years of racing, Kahn and Stewart sat down to have a serious discussion about their future. “Motocross seemed like a selfish avenue,” said Kahn. “We have a bigger purpose in life.”
Currently, the pair are filming their documentary in San Diego, Poway and the surrounding area, investigating sex trafficking and working with victims. “It happens in Poway,” said Stewart. “It’s a split city. [Sex trafficking] happens in motels and monthly rent homes.”
According to Kahn and Stewart, a huge amount of sex trafficking advertising is done on websites like Craigslist and Backpage.com. Kahn and Stewart created a fake sexual escort ad online in the Poway area of the Craigslist website. Within four minutes, they had calls, with calls coming in every four minutes following that. “We learned to identify clues in the Internet ads,” said Stewart. Many girls involved in sex trafficking are runaways, who have been drugged and moved across state lines against their wills. They are often given new names (sometimes weekly) and threatened into cooperation.
Kahn and Stewart hope, if they can raise the funds, to travel across the United States, investigating sex trafficking, and founding shelters for victims of sex trafficking. Currently, they fund everything themselves, working odd jobs to raise funds while allowing them the freedom of time to investigate and film.
In order to raise awareness of their cause (and hopefully, some funds for their documentary), Kahn and Stewart are planning an epic 135-mile walk from Belmont Park to Santa Monica Pier. Walking 22.5 miles a day, the women will leave from Belmont Park at 8 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27, and plan to arrive at the Santa Monica Pier on Sunday, Dec. 2. Despite never having walked that far before in a single day, Kahn and Stewart are optimistic that they can do it, especially if it will raise awareness in the media for sex trafficking. “If someone doesn’t do something crazy, it doesn’t hit the media,” said Kahn.
Kahn and Stewart are hoping to have people sponsor them for their walk, and are accepting sponsorship per mile, with all funds going directly toward their documentaries, the safe havens they hope to open for victims of sex trafficking, and travel costs. “People are really taking to the walk, because it shows that we mean business,” said Stewart.
To find out more about Kahn and Stewart’s documentary or their walk, visit www.voiceinsidethewalls.com, or visit www.IndieGoGo.com/VoiceInsideTheWalls.
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