In her own words, Frida Farrell is a survivor from being sex trafficked in her younger years. This horrific experience is something she is still coming to terms with. Farrell speaks with ATM about her journey thus far, how she is using the film world to enlighten other individuals and her film Apartment 407.
ATM: How was it when you told the police and they did not believe you?
FF: This is a great question. Not many people ask this. You feel so disheartened and you start blaming yourself even more. You think, “Surely if the police tell me this, then surely I am at fault.” You think, “Okay I am an idiot.” It is hard. In hindsight, I am thinking how dare they do that to young women who come to tell their story.
ATM: At what point did you get rid of the self-blame and realize this was not your fault?
FF: If I am completely honest, it is not all gone. You still have doubts some days. Most of the time it is gone, and it was once I started to talk about it. It was over ten years that I did not tell anyone. This was my defense mechanism, which is not the right one. I felt too ashamed and I could not. I thought I’d rather just be quiet and squeeze into a crowd and not have anyone pity me. Now I am doing Q&A’s and it is easier to talk about it. It is always going to be a little difficult. It is not like, “Oh hey, this is what happened?”
In a previous interview you stated it is usually a poor individual from a foreign country who cannot speak the language of the place they are. Do you think this stigma overshadows the people who do not fit into this stigma?
FF: Yes. When someone says a sex trafficking victim to you or to me, we immediately think of those people who are super vulnerable. They do not speak the language. They do not have the right papers. They are stuck because they need help. They come from Asia or South America or from Eastern Europe. They are vulnerable and are in need. They are like the perfect prey, but these are not the only ones.
This is also why I want the film to come out and be seen. I was born in freedom. I had a great upbringing. I was not rich by any means, but I was not living on the street. I was able to eat my meals at home every day. I was fine. It can happen to anyone. It is not just those vulnerable who are targeted, but it is these other people too. Any blonde girl in college who has a good upbringing could be kidnapped. It needs to be understood that it is not just those vulnerable people.
ATM: How could this influence a woman’s connection with a man after going through this experience?
FF: Oh, this is very individual. It depends on each person and how they are. I probably became genuinely angry with men for some many years. To be honest, I was not a great girlfriend. I just did not trust men. I did not realize these things until much later. When I look back on my relationship and I say, “Why did I do this? Why didn’t I do this? Why wasn’t I kind? Why wasn’t I polite as an I could have been?” I couldn’t really because I had lost respect and trust for men. This is also sad because you generalize and not all men are like this. Very few men—thank God—are like this, but most men aren’t.
Everyone is going to react differently. Until you are honest with yourself and come clean and you say this happened to me. Then you can start working on yourself and what happens to you afterward and get through it. And start trusting people or men. It is not only men, but there are also a lot of women who are acting as a pimp. People who have had past traumatic events, I am not downsizing anything, but if you get raped once, which is horrific, then you might not trust this person.
ATM: What influence would the movie have if you did not add the background of the guy who did this?
FF: I like characters in films that you have a reaction to. Whether it is good or bad it does not matter. If you have a reaction to who someone who is horrible and terrible. And say, “I hate this person.” This is a great reaction. This means the writer has done a good job of impacting you. I also really like if you see a bad guy in a film to understand why he is doing what he is doing. I would never sympathize and never be on his side, but I would like to understand.
The writer created a character that we all hate, and we want to kill him. But we understand why he did it. We do not sympathize or agree with him. You still want to kill him at the end. This is a question I have had for meaning years, why? Why did you do this? This might not be his reason at all. I do not know his reason. It could be anything. I felt good making up a reason that I could use and say, “Okay, he was a person, too. Who was in trouble. He needed money and needed help.” I get it. It was not a good thing that he did, but I get it.
ATM: What are the new ways you want to highlight human rights? What are new ways you wish to explore human rights based on your film?
FF: I would like to it take further to schools and on tours to talk about it. And try to educate young women. This is kind of how I would like to contribute to human rights. I just want them to know how it could it be and what could happen and to show them what their human rights are. No one can take you and sell you by law.
ATM: Exactly. No one can just take you and claim you as property.
FF: No—this should have been a law for decades and hundreds of years. Unfortunately, in this country, it has not been. It is terrible. It was not long ago that it was not recognized. European people did not have slaves in Europe, but in America they did. For Europeans, you look at the history and it is crazy that this country did that to them.
ATM: It has a lot to do with dominance and people wanting control. They are picking on the submissive or people who are passive and do not have the guts to speak up for themselves.
FF: Yes. Slavery in this country was not just toward anyone, but it was very specific towards African Americans. Slavery goes for everyone and anyone. No one in the world should be able to do this. In China and in India, people are just taken off the street and sold all the time. Everyone can do their small things to try and help. This is my small thing to try and help. I cannot change the world. I cannot go to India to fix things. I can try to change the world little by little.
ATM: Based on this film, how are you going to warn males and females to be aware of their surrounds and not be as open? How do you want to show them about being on alert and not careless about their surroundings?
FF: I was a teenager myself. When you are a teenager, you are careless. You feel like you cannot die, and you feel like the world is a different place. I do not want to stop a teenager from being a teenager. They should be a little bit careless and have fun. But there are moments when the situation could become serious. It could be anything from going to a nightclub with girlfriends. I have done this, too. It was taught earlier on to put your hand over your glass when you are at the bar and not looking at it. People can drug you so easily. Whenever you are face down somewhere in the toilet, they can drag you out and you will disappear.
This is a very normal way of getting taken. They always looking for girls who are the easiest targets—the drunk ones who are out with their teenage friends or are in their early 20s. I was still a crazy person when I was only 24. If someone in your group gets really drunk, then make sure this person gets home okay. Take care of this person. Some people do not know their limits when they are drinking. If you feel yourself [not in control], then grab a girlfriend and say, “I think we should go home.” Do not be a brave one. I know, too, when you are a teenager you want to say, “Oh, yeah I want to get drunk.” You will be an easier target. When it gets to the point that you are at that nightclub or a bar and you do not remember anything or remember where you are, it is time to go home. Or you might be one of those unlucky girls.
ATM: You might dabble into something that will change your life forever.
Mentally, what type of woman were you before this event happened to you?
FF: I was living in New York when I was 21 or 22. I was having the time of my life. I was just going to bars and nightclubs. In New York, I sometimes partied every single day of the week. Sometimes I did this because I could. It was fun. If you find yourself with friends who are always out, you might be in the wrong friend group. It is very difficult to change.
I was very carelessly, not in a stupid way. I had to grow up fast. I left early from Sweden, I left home at 16. I had nights where I went out, got drunk, and had fun. I did feel pretty safe in New York, which probably was a total lie. I was like, “Oh, it is appropriate. I feel safe.” Now thinking back on it, I should not have felt that safe. At this age, you think the world is fantastic. I was more careless before the incident. It changed me hugely—so much that I cannot even put my finger on how much–just a lot. I was silent for many years, just so I could feel a little normal in my head. It made me aware of the dangers.
When I was 17, I was in Athens with some girls who were modeling. We were pretty much still children. You do not think you are a child, but you are still a child when you are 17. One of my girlfriends got hurt or got spiked. Suddenly she just collapsed at my feet. Nobody cared. One of the guys who took us to the nightclub was like, “Yeahhhh.” I was the one that dragged her out into a taxi, went to the hospital, watched her stomached get pumped, put her in a wheelchair, and got her back to the hotel where we lived. No one else cared. This is kind of a situation where she probably could have been one of those girls. If I had not taken her or if she had collapsed in a bathroom, then I would not have known where she was; I might have thought, “Oh, maybe she went home.” But she did it in front of me, which is great because I was able to help her. It is very common and more common then we think.
ATM: Some young adults from early 17 to mid-20s romanticize a lot about what life is. They hear these horrific stories like yours or others, but in their minds, they say, “This could never happen to me. Or that is not real.” But it is real. You just never know. Anyone is susceptible to this happening to them.
Whether you are a careless individual or on alert. You could walk outside, and someone could grab you. It has a lot to do with how young adults think. No one gets up and thinks, “Ha, am I the person who is going to get taken today? Am I the girl or boy who is going to show up on the News? Am I the person the city is going to be looking for?” Your life can change instantly within a snap of a finger.
FF: I could not agree more. It is exactly this. This is the target audience for me. I really want to get to those girls. I’ve seen this film in festivals all around the world. I have mothers who have gone to see it that have young children who are 13, 14, 15. They say, “Oh my god. I just need to be more aware.” This is a great age to start teaching them to be aware. If you start early, then it will be in their backbones.
You never really hear about the other cases. It is not on the front of the newspaper, but it should be.
ATM: This is a very topic dark for anyone to discuss. People want to know more about it. To put it more and more on the front page would take the world out of thinking in happiness. People want to know but they are on edge on what they are going to find out as they flip the page or keep reading.
FF: If you tend to drink, put your hand over your drink. You will keep reading this as you flip the pages and you will start doing this. This will stop people from doing it because it is advertised. If you grow up to have a child that plays on the playground, then there should be a sign that says, “Never let child out of sight.” Because he might get left. This is another place they take children.
ATM: Kids are sold, and babies are sold.
FF: Yes, and they are so vulnerable. Like, “Here is a lollipop.” “Here is an ice cream.” If someone catches a teenager like this, then they have to be drugged. Sometimes there are people who groom them. It is just a big mountain to climb. I would like to use this film to climb a few huge steps on this mountain.
ATM: How has “film” changed you as a person?
FF: This is such a good question. It has given me a lot more confidence, which I did not have before—confidence in myself. I am getting over the fear of telling what happened. Once you do tell it, people react in a way that you are like, “That was actually a good reaction.” I do not have to hide anything anymore. I am just myself.
ATM: Today, how would you describe yourself as woman now after everything?
FF: I have never sat down and thought what kind of woman I am. This is a great question. What kind of woman am I? This is a great question to ask a friend of mine. If I were to ask my business partner, who is also my best friend, then he would say that I am kickass and that I don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. If I say something, then I am going to do it. I can do things myself. We are working in a man’s world, so we have to be a little masculine to manage.
To learn more about Frida Farrell and her production company Development Hell Pictures, you can visit http://developmenthellpictures.com/ and you can follow her on your social media @thefridafarrell