Raising Awareness: Human Trafficking
Sex trafficking, from a Western perspective, can be viewed as a threat that only impacts people in developing countries. Swedish-born actress Frida Farrell has made it her mission to change this misconception. “[Sex trafficking] is so big – we just live in our space bubble but [it’s] just bubbling beneath the surface,” Farrell said. “Apartment 407,” the film based on Farrell’s true story as a victim, brings to light that sex trafficking is a worldwide problem and it can happen to anyone. “I want [the public] to know not to make assumptions. We view it as someone who comes across the border, somebody vulnerable,” she said. “But it’s anyone... it’s not a matter of being rich or poor. It could be any American teenager.”
According to Polaris Project, a U.S. non-profit dedicated to stopping human trafficking, this is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry impacting 24.9 million people worldwide. In 2018, Polaris identified 1,336 victims and survivors through their Human Trafficking Hotline in California alone. The most cited type was sexual trafficking.
Farrell’s nightmare began when she answered a modeling ad while living in London. She found herself on the high-end Harley Street, which she likens to being on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Thinking she would be safe in the affluent area with plenty of people around, she entered the building where she was captured by a man who claimed to be a photographer. Farrell was abducted and held as a sex slave for three days. She was finally released when the perpetrator fled the scene. He was never apprehended.
Farrell went on to work in acting, but the experience never left her. She denied initial offers to make a film based on the event. With time, she came to realize that sharing her experience could help others who have been trafficked, and sexually or physically abused as well. Farrell reenacts her story in her film “Apartment 407,” which chronicles her experience in explicit detail.
“It was the hardest role I had ever done,” Farrell said when asked about her process behind making this film. To keep the production free from bias, the origin of the story was omitted from the cast and crew. “I didn’t tell anyone it was based on me. I wanted to be a part of it and not be treated any differently.” To help her get through filming, Farrell says, “I distanced myself from me. It was a new set, new environment.”
Upon completion of the film, it took her a few years to feel ready to release the film to the public. Editing took three years, with Farrell finding it difficult to review and piece together the scenes that were shot. The project took about 10 years to complete.
When the film was officially released this past November, Farrell encountered widespread praise, and a profound reaction from viewers, which continues to this day. “The response is fantastic, that is cathartic.” Farrell receives daily messages from others who have encountered similar experiences all over the U.S. and Canada. “They are writing all over the platforms to have their voice heard,” she said. Farrell said she replies to every message, to let them know she is listening and supports them.
What’s next for Farrell? She is working on a new film project and continuing to educate audiences by showing “Apartment 407” at college campuses. Farrell encourages others to shed their shame and continue the conversation. “If you can, share your story,” she said. “I was embarrassed, blaming myself for what happened.” Now empowered, Farrell’s tenacity shows catharsis in action.
“Apartment 407” is available to watch now streaming on Amazon Prime and iTunes.