When Ric Bienstock brought Sex Slaves to Channel 4 and the CBC she knew there would be a big response. Though she had faith, even she didn’t expect what happened next: C4 was inundated with calls from people who wanted to help the women featured in the film. These initial calls have translated into CDN$20,000 in donations to date.
Sex Slaves, produced by Toronto prodco Associated Producers, is a doc about the sex trafficking industry that preys upon women from the former Soviet Union. After watching these women suffer as they’re lured from their home country with the promise of a job, only to have their passports taken and their bodies beaten and forced into a sex trade, audiences responded with compassion. While many donated money to The Poppy Project, a London-based charity featured in the film, many who called wanted to give directly to the women they’d just watched go through hell.
Since Bienstock and the crew from Associated Producers were the only ones in contact with the women, they decided to set up a trust account and post donation info on their site and the websites of each network the film appeared on. Some people sent $500, but most donations were in the realm of $20 or $50. AP has been able to send the $20,000 it received, along with the accompanying notes, to the women.
‘They have been so overwhelmed by the notion that strangers who don’t know them are sending money for them. One of the women, Tania, has sent letters in Russian back to the donors to say thank you and that it’s changed her life. We’ve been translating those letters and sending them back to the donors and sometimes that precipitates a new round of donations,’ says Bienstock. ‘We’ve unwittingly turned into an organization.’