Molly Venzke, a 1988 O’Fallon High graduate, will be back in town this weekend to talk to students and the public about human sex trafficking.
She will address students at three assemblies at OTHS on Friday, one at the Milburn campus and two at the Smiley campus, and will attend a luncheon with teachers. A session open to the public is from 7 to 8 p.m. Friday in Milburn Auditorium. Monday evening, she will attend a screening “Caged No More,” the movie based on her book of the same name, at the O’Fallon 15 Cine. After each event, she will answer parents’ and students’ questions.
“It’s a serious problem, but I promise my discussions will be lively and not depressing,” Molly said in a telephone interview from Auburn, Wash. “It’s really about prevention. People will be educated and will leave feeling empowered. The talk and the movie will be eye-opening, uplifting and empowering.”
Molly wants everyone to know about sex trafficking, which enslaves an estimated 27 million people worldwide, 1.2 million of them children.
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“It’s happening in Belleville, St. Louis, O’Fallon,” said Molly, 45. “Sex trafficking is huge in St. Louis. It’s one of the top five cities in America. A lot of major highways come together in St. Louis — I-64, 70, 55. ... Highways are important to sex traffickers because they constantly move the girls around.”
She described how sex trafficking typically works.
“Someone contacts a girl on the Internet. He pretends to be your friend, building a relationship and trust. Then you’re invited to a party — and you don’t come home.”
That’s what Molly, author of “Caged No More” and screenwriter for the movie, wants everyone to know.
Molly Olson, daughter of Richard and Janice Olson, of O’Fallon, was raised in Belleville and graduated from O’Fallon Township High School in 1988. She received a bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 1994. She lives in Auburn with her husband, Jay Venzke, a financial adviser and their three daughters, Alex, Madeline and Tessa.
“Caged No More,” starring Kevin Sorbo and Loretta Devine, was release in theaters across the country in January. It’s the story of Aggie Prejean, a grandmother on a desperate search to find her two granddaughters who have been kidnapped by their sinister father. He has taken them overseas to be sold into slavery to settle his drug debt. Aggie enlists the help of the girls’ uncle, a well-respected philanthopist, and his son, who served in Special Forces. They stop at nothing to see the girls safely returned home.
“Most people think they’ll come out of a movie about sex trafficking feeling down,” Molly said. “But it’s a story of hope. It’s PG-13. We don’t concentrate on the horrors of sex trafficking.”
The movie created a platform to get people talking about the issue. Part of Molly’s message is letting parents and students know how they can get involved in the community to thwart sex trafficking.
She became interested in the issue while doing research for Trafficking Hope, an international organization dedicated to rescuing girls from sex trafficking and restoring them to their families. She met some of the girls and heard their stories.
“It was heartbreaking. That’s when I realized this is an enormous issue I didn’t even know existed. We couldn’t afford to make big donations, so I asked myself, ‘What can I do?”
Writing about it was the answer.
“Caged No More” is the first movie in a trilogy. Molly is writing the next two books and screenplays. Also, she hopes to launch a website the fall on which kids can post back and forth their thoughts.
“High school and junior high is where it happens in America,” Molly said. “They have a lot of good information and they will be able to share it.”
It’s all coming together within the next year, Molly said.
“Trafficking Hope doesn’t do anything halfway, so it’s all being vetted to get all the bugs out.”
At a glance
Sex trafficking forum
- What: Molly Venzke presents a free, community-wide event on human sex trafficking, including a question and answer session
- When: 7-8 p.m. Friday
- Where: Milburn Auditorium, 650 Milburn School Road, O’Fallon
- Admission: Free
‘Caged No More’ screening
- What: Movie about sex trafficking based on the book by Molly Venzke. It stars Kevin Sorbo, Loretta Devine and Cynthia Gibb.
- When: 7:30 p.m. Monday
- Where: Wehrenberg O’Fallon 15 Cine, 1320 Central Park Drive, O’Fallon
- Tickets: $13.50. Preorder at www.tugg.com/events/95836