Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa TV company to produce faith-based sex trafficking film

Dotti Groover-Skipper of the Community Campaign Against Human Trafficking is interviewed by producer Cecil Stokes for a Blind Eyes Opened video short, part of a Ships of Tarshish series.

Courtesy of Ships of Tarshish

Dotti Groover-Skipper of the Community Campaign Against Human Trafficking is interviewed by producer Cecil Stokes for a Blind Eyes Opened video short, part of a Ships of Tarshish series.

While WEDU-Ch. 3 will debut a documentary on Tampa Bay's human trafficking issues this week, a Tampa television company is preparing to produce a documentary series that will focus on 10 major U.S. cities, including Tampa Bay.

Creators say Blind Eyes Opened will begin filming in Tampa Bay this year and feature survivors who found healing through Christianity.

Ships of Tarshish, the nonprofit TV company behind the project, will host a fundraiser Oct. 3 at the Straz Center. More than 25 antitrafficking organizations are scheduled to attend.

While not singling out WEDU's Too Close to Home, the producer of Blind Eyes Opened stressed that his series will use faith-based testimonials, not explicit imagery, to raise awareness about sex trafficking in the United States.

"We are different than other documentaries because of the way we are approaching this topic," said Geoffrey Rogers. "We won't include any material that can't be shown in a church. We won't use shocking images or graphic details. It will be appropriate for family viewing."

Rogers said the idea is to educate Christians and promote change.

"A lot of people don't know that Tampa is on the FBI's list of top 14 cities for sex trafficking," Rogers said. "When people think about prostitution or strip clubs, they might think that is the individual's choice, but we are learning it is often not by choice, that many of these individuals are forced into the sex trade or forced to stay there."

Edie Rhea was 10 when her mother's boyfriend began selling her to men for sex near Busch Boulevard. Now 45 and the founder of Healing Root Ministries, Rhea, who also is featured in the WEDU documentary, shares her story to help other girls. She will appear in a video short at the upcoming Blind Eyes Opened fundraiser.

"Absolutely you can spread awareness without making it graphic," Rhea said. "How else will children learn that this is out there?"

Rogers said children old enough to understand the content in Blind Eyes Opened are among the age group often targeted by traffickers. In Tampa Bay, the average age is 14, said Laura Hamilton, president of Bridging Freedom, an organization working to develop a tri-county safe home for rescued children. In some cities, the age is 12.

Hamilton's group is featured in a promotional video for Blind Eyes Opened.

"We are very excited about what Ships of Tarshish is doing," Hamilton said. "We definitely believe God is putting his people together to come against this thing. This is happening in our own back yard."

Rogers said Blind Eyes Opened will follow antitrafficking organizations in each city it highlights. Other cities to be featured are Dallas, Las Vegas, Detroit, New York, Atlanta and Los Angeles. Rogers said he expects the Straz Center event to largely fund the production.

The fundraiser will feature state Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, former state Rep. Rachel Burgin and former FBI investigator Rolando Lopez. Anyone interested in learning more is encouraged to attend.

"When most people become aware of the problem it is so large they don't know what to do, and so many don't do anything," Rogers said. "We want people to know they don't have to go out and rescue someone and bring them into their home. In fact, they shouldn't do that. What is needed is for people to use the gifts God has given them to engage in this, so that together we can stop it."

Sarah Whitman can be reached at [email protected]

>> If You Go

'Blind Eyes Opened' fundraiser

When, where: Oct. 3, Straz Center, Carol Morsani Hall, 1010 N Macinnes Place, Tampa. Doors open at 6 p.m. Program begins at 7.

Cost: Donations appreciated


Tampa TV company to produce faith-based sex trafficking film 09/20/13 [Last modified: Friday, September 20, 2013 6:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Anna Maria City Pier to close for year after 'extensive damage' from Hurricane Irma


    ANNA MARIA — While Hurricane Irma's last-minute shift helped spare large swaths of Florida cities from catastrophic damage, the Anna Maria City Pier didn't fare so well.

    A damage assessment following Hurricane Irma suggests repairs for the Anna Maria City Pier can take at least 12 months. [LUIS SANTANA for Visit Florida]
  2. Photo of the Day for September 26, 2017 - Flying gecko on glass

    Human Interest

    Today's Photo of the Day comes from Wayne Rayburn of Tarpon Springs, FL. He calls it "Flying gecko on glass."

  3. Candidate in East Hillsborough House primary didn't vote in primaries


    TAMPA — Personal voting histories show a sharp difference between Yvonne Fry and Lawrence McClure, the two candidates in the Republican special election primary Oct. 10 for East Hillsborough's District 58 state House seat.

    Yvonne Fry, Republican candidate for state House District 58, has voted in 34 elections at all levels since 1994. She likes to vote on election day, she said, and considers it a national holiday. [Courtesy of Yvonne Fry]
  4. Water and some food scarce as Puerto Rico emerges from storm


    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Supermarkets are gradually re-opening in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico but the situation is far from normal and many customers are going home disappointed.

    People wait in line outside a grocery store to buy food that wouldn't spoil and that they could prepare without electricity, in San Juan, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. Most stores and restaurants remained closed Monday. Nearly all of Puerto Rico was without power or water five days after Hurricane Maria. [Associated Press]
  5. Tampa-based vXchnge secures $200M loan to expand operations


    TAMPA — Tampa-based vXchnge, which operates data centers in 14 metro areas, has secured a loan for roughly $200 million for "major expansions and enhancements."

    Tampa-based vXchnge, a data center provider, secured a $200 million loan. Pictured is CEO Keith Olsen. | [Courtesy of vXchnge]