Laura & Vanessa Marano Bring To Light Stories Of Survival On World Against Trafficking Day

Vanessa & Laura Marano will host a conversation about sexual exploitation with human trafficking survivors/advocates. They told HL why they want to bring awareness to this horrible crime.

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Last summer, multi-hyphenate sisters Vanessa and Laura Marano released their film, Saving Zoë, based on the novel by Alyson Noel. In the making of the film, the girls realized the underwhelming knowledge the general public had about human trafficking and how common it actually is. As disturbing stories of Jeffrey Epstein and his powerful accomplices come to light, it’s more important now, than ever, that people understand the lucrative industry that is sex trafficking.

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To the commemorate the anniversary of #SavingZoe, Laura and I are thrilled to announce that we will be hosting a panel tackling subjects pertaining to sex trafficking and online sexual exploitation. We are absolutely honored that Melanie Thompson and Cristian Eduardo, both survivors and advocates, will be joining us in this conversation. So many of you followed and supported us through our Saving Zoë journey. Through making and promoting the film, Laura and I were privileged to learn so much from survivors and advocates along the way. When Saving Zoë was released, we had the amazing opportunity to do a few panels and talk backs at various theaters. Unfortunately, due to limited locations, not everyone got a chance to attend and participate. So, we wanted to bring the panel to you guys! We will be diving into a variety of subjects such as how communities of color are often disproportionately targeted when it comes to trafficking, how often male survivors’ voices are often not heard, the insidious nature of the grooming process, and ways in which exploitation exists online. If you have any questions that you would like asked during the panel, go to the link in my bio to submit your question. While we may not be able to get to all questions during the panel, we really want to hear your thoughts! We are thrilled to be taking part in a survivor informed and focused conversation. Where we stand in the world right now has shown us all how important to continue having conversations about difficult subjects if we are ever going to bring about tangible change. We will be posting the panel on July 30th which also happens to be World Day Against Trafficking. We hope everyone gets a chance watch! If you do want to submit a question for the panel, make sure to submit them by 5 pm PST on this Monday the 20th. Again, click the link in my bio to submit.

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Both Laura and Vanessa partnered with Equality Now last year ahead of the release of Saving Zoë to bring awareness to the dangers of human trafficking. Now, they plan on continuing the conversation by continuing the partnership and hosting a pre-taped panel on social media to discuss sexual exploitation with human trafficking survivors/advocates. “It’s $99 billion dollars a year — that’s an estimate from the UN about how much money comes from commercial sexual exploitation,” Vanessa revealed in a podcast interview with HollywoodLife. “The US is one of the top source countries for trading people — not just bringing in foreigners, but also of their own citizens.”

“We get into a lot we get into the grooming process, which I don’t think our society knows much about. A big thing that we also talk about is representation in media and movies. I think we think of trafficking as Taken…It’s really most of the time not like that. The big the word of the panel was insidious because it is so much more insidious than we think,” added Laura.

Vanessa & Laura Marano pose together. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

The ladies were joined by sex-trafficking survivors Melanie Thompson and Cristian Eduardo, who shared their stories and will educate viewers on the lucrative industry. “I think a lot of people think it only happens to children. I think a lot of people think it only happens to women. And yes, women and girls make up 94% of sexual exploitation victims. But that means 6% are men and boys, and we dive into this at the panel,” Vanessa explained.

Laura continued, “Melanie and Christian were so adamant about saying during the panel is, anyone has experienced exploitation or trafficking in any way, it is not your fault. A lot of the times the question is ‘Why me?’ And what we have to realize is it has nothing to do with you. Because at the end of the day, the trafficker — the predator — does not care about you. It is about them. It is about the money they are making.”

The conversation between Laura, Vanessa, Melanie and Cristian will take place on World Against Trafficking Day on July 30th on both Laura and Vanessa’s Instagram accounts (linked!) Be sure to listen to our full conversation with the ladies on the HollywoodLife podcast!