Sex Trafficking Survivor Advocate: Netflix’s ‘Cuties’ Already Having ‘Real Life Ramifications’ For Sexual Abuse Victims

   DailyWire.com
Netflix logo is seen displayed on TV screen in this illustration photo taken in Poland on July 16, 2020. On-Demand streaming services gained popularity and new subscribers during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo Illustration by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Clips from the Netflix movie “Cuties” released earlier this week are causing survivors of sexual assault and abuse to relive traumatic experiences while normalizing further sexual exploitation of children, sex trafficking survivors and advocates told The Daily Wire.

“Cuties,” released on Wednesday and promoted by Netflix, focuses on Amy, an 11-year-old Senegalese girl, growing up in Paris in a traditional Muslim family. The film reveals early that Amy’s father plans to take a second wife, and Amy is thrown into crisis by rejecting the extreme values of her father and looking for belonging in the internet age.

She learns suggestive dance moves — which are portrayed vividly on screen by pre-pubescent girls grabbing themselves and each other and contorting themselves in sexual positions — from social media to earn a spot on a dance troupe at her school called the “Cuties.” The movie ends with Amy, crying, fleeing the troupe and trying to regain her innocence living out a more normal childhood.

Clips of the movie flooded social media soon after its release, sparking strong backlash against Netflix and the movie’s creator, Maïmouna Doucouré, for its racy displays of young girls and camera work that puts the girls’ crotches and buttocks squarely on screen. While many critics blasted the movie as soft-core child pornography, sex trafficking survivor and advocate Eliza Bleu said the film is also giving sexual abuse victims flashbacks of some of the darkest moments of their lives.

“It takes them back to a moment when they were abused and overtly sexualized as a child,” Bleu told The Daily Wire in an interview. “They might have to call off work the next day. They might have thoughts of suicide. Those are the real-life ramifications of that material being so open and readily available.”

In a statement to The Daily Wire, Victims Refuse Silence Vice President Teresa Helm, who has alleged that disgraced financier and convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein sexually assaulted her when she was 22, accused Netflix of sexualizing “our most impressionable, vulnerable, and most easily targeted” by marketing and releasing “Cuties.” (Read Helm’s full statement below).

Helm’s own story of sexual abuse has been highlighted on Netflix in the docu-series “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich,” which she praised for raising awareness of the process that pedophiles and sexual criminals use to groom victims. Helm said “Cuties” has done the opposite, providing pedophiles with material they can use to confuse and convince children to become unwitting victims.

“Shows such as ‘Cuties’ are dangerous and should be held accountable for the complicity of sexual exploitation and the distribution of sexual content of minors,” Helm said. “Netflix is perpetuating the supply and demand factor of sexual exploitation, abuse, and trafficking.”

Netflix defended its film against criticism in a comment to The Daily Caller News Foundation on Thursday.

“Cuties is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children,” Netflix said. “It’s an award winning film and a powerful story about the pressure young girls face on social media and from society more generally growing up – and we’d encourage anyone who cares about these important issues to watch the movie.”

Sex trafficking and abuse, especially involving minors, has hit “staggering” levels recently, exacerbated by the coronavirus and widely-adopted lockdown policies, according to Bleu. Presciently, Bleu had predicted the tragic outcome of lockdown policies during an interview with The Daily Wire in early April.

Children kept away from schools and social activities and forced online are more likely to meet potential abusers and pedophiles, Bleu explained. In many cases, children forced inside are living with their abusers to begin with.

In March, the first month of mass lockdowns over the coronavirus, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children recorded a 106% increase in reports of suspected online child sexual exploitation over a year earlier. The Rape Abuse and Incest National Network’s National Sexual Assault Hotline reported in July that for a week it had experienced its highest demand ever for services in its 26-year history. Many of those requests for help came from children.

“Like it’s not bad enough. Like it’s not bad enough out here, you know?” Bleu said, frustrated with the timing of the release of “Cuties,” as well as the movie’s content. “Like it’s not bad enough, then they gotta go and make it worse.”

Bleu often works with victimized children to teach them the difference between “safe” and “unsafe” touching to prevent further abuse. She said the graphic displays shown in “Cuties” makes her work with children much harder because Netflix has put those images in the homes of millions of children who do not understand the difference between art and real life.

“Those were strip club moves. Those were gentlemen club moves meant for adults for a specific purpose to get men or women or whomever to tip an adult performer,” Bleu said of the dancing in “Cuties.” Bleu herself was trafficked through such clubs.

“When we are talking to children, we talk about a safe touch and an unsafe touch and boundaries,” Bleu said. “The actions that I saw in that short clip would work directly against what I would show as a safe touch. You know, brutal honesty, petting of the crotch, zooming into that area, that makes it look like those are safe places to touch.”

Bleu is a self-described supporter of the arts and of artists to push limits and make people uncomfortable with how certain truths about the world are depicted. “Cuties” crosses the line, however.

“There’s more than one way to do it. This is just sending a horrible message, and it terrifies me because this type of behavior does have real-life ramifications. This isn’t a made-up thing,” Bleu said. “You can dance and be completely normal. You can dance and be completely amazing. I am a big believer in the performing arts, but this is too far.”

Read Helm’s full statement below:

So, this is the world that humanity opens their eyes to. A world where a major production company sexualizes our most impressionable, vulnerable, and most easily targeted. Our children. Through the production of “Cuties,” Netflix has … demonstrated a mass scale of objectification and sexual exploitation of little girls disguised and pushed as family entertainment. This is one prime example of what it is like to be groomed. The grooming process is a crucial component to predators. As an Epstein, Maxwell, Kellen survivor and as Vice President of Victims Refuse Silence, I feel Netflix fared well at exposing the process of grooming in their Filthy Rich docu-series. And now, they have reverted horrendously. Another factor of grooming? Yes it is. Shows such as “Cuties” are dangerous and should be held accountable for the complicity of sexual exploitation and the distribution of sexual content of minors. Netflix is perpetuating the supply and demand factor of sexual exploitation, abuse, and trafficking.

Netflix did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Daily Wire.

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