Club raises awareness of local prostitution

FEATURE FILM: Pat McCalla, President of Streetlight, an advocacy program for sex slaves in Phoenix, just produced a film titled “Branded.” (Photo by Michael Arellano)

An ASU club raised awareness about local human trafficking and child prostitution Wednesday by showing a screening of the documentary “Branded.”

ASU’s Fighting Against Slavery and Trafficking club, FAST, was created in spring 2009 in order to raise awareness to prevent enslavement and trafficking of human beings around the world.

Members work around a three-tiered plan focusing on awareness, volunteering and fundraising.

Co-president of FAST Leah Stonefeld a sustainability junior, said the club chose to have a screening of “Branded” at the Tempe campus because it specifically documents child prostitution in Phoenix and Las Vegas.

“Many people don’t realize how close prostitution occurs to them,” she said. “They aren’t aware of how prevalent it is in their own city.”

In addition to screening the movie, the president and co-founder of Streetlight Patrick McCalla spoke about the statistics and prevalence of child sex slavery in Phoenix.

Streetlight is a local nonprofit organization in Phoenix that attempts to eradicate child prostitution.

McCalla, who is also the co-producer of “Branded,” said that the average age of a prostitute in Arizona is 13 years old.

He mentioned that pimps often approach girls at malls after school and target girls who seem like they have low self-esteem.

They manipulate girls by telling them that they’re a photographer and want to take modeling photos of them. Then, they gradually lure them into a life of prostitution.

He also spoke about how the Phoenix Police Department’s vice squad is leading the nation in investigating and cracking down on child prostitution.

“Our squad treats these girls as victims, instead of as girls who are willingly out there to make an extra buck,” McCalla said.

He said he was inspired to get involved in the prevention of child prostitution when hearing about a case that is now featured in the documentary.

The case involved the kidnapping and forced prostitution of a 15-year-old Phoenix girl. He said that though the stories are scarring, they motivate him to try to make a change.

Anthony Stuertzel, a political science junior who attended the screening, said he was emotionally moved after seeing the documentary.

“I didn’t realize that so much child prostitution was happening in the United States,” he said. “Now I feel like I have to do something to change it.”

Members of FAST meet every first and third Friday at 2 p.m. in Room 62 in the College of Design North to plan awareness and fundraising events for their cause.

Reach the reporter at Danielle.legler@asu.edu