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Yumarie Morales - MIKAYA in Safe Harbor
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“I thought sex trafficking was a far larger problem in foreign countries.” – YUMARIE MORALES, “Safe Harbor” actress

“Safe Harbor”, written by Tira Palmquist, explores sex trafficking and is a product of Lower Depth’s Cycle of Violence Commissioned Series. This is its World Premier.

What has become the most significant take-away for you from doing this play?

The most significant take-away from my being in this play has been learning how prevalent sex trafficking is in the US. From what I’ve read and seen in both articles and documentaries, I thought sex trafficking was a far larger problem in foreign countries, specifically third world countries. But even though we are one of the richest countries in the world, and we have so many resources and task forces, and advocacy programs at our disposal, children are still being forced into sex work through many avenues. The scariest thing to me, is finding out that family members, relatives and people who are seemingly “good” people are involved in the recruitment of children. The research behind “Safe Harbor” has broadened my awareness and has challenged me to stay vigilant and conscious of my surroundings at all times. 

What did you know about sex trafficking prior to being cast in “Safe Harbor”?
Prior to “Safe Harbor”, I knew as much as any regular person knew and understood about sex trafficking. I was made to believe that men go to poor countries and commit atrocities against children and sometimes brought children here to work as sex slaves. I thought it was mostly like how the movies have made it seem. I didn’t know that children from middle and upper class families are groomed and preyed upon because of their low self-esteem or lack of anyone to provide what they need emotionally at home. I didn’t know pimps and other predators were far more sophisticated and intelligent that I gave them credit for due to their scary ability to appeal to children in a way that would make children trust them over their seemingly good home environments. I also didn’t understand the complexity of why victims would go back to the life after coming out of it; why they would choose that over normalcy. It is a very layered and complex idea.

Yumarie Morales as MIKAYLA in "Safe Harbor"
Yumarie Morales as MIKAYLA in “Safe Harbor”

What surprises you most about your character?
What surprises me most about Mikayla is that she has the strength and will to get out of the life even though she had no one or nowhere to turn to. She is a beacon of hope for victims. She is an example that strength and hope often times comes from within. Or at least starts from within and then with help from loving and patient individuals can be nurtured into the courage it takes to leave and stay out of an environment that can easily swallow you whole.

What do you hope audiences will do after seeing “Safe Harbor”?
I hope audiences learn to communicate with their younger relatives, siblings, and children about how to set boundaries for themselves and others. How to recognize predatory behaviors even when the predator they are dealing with should be someone they trust. I hope it opens up a healthy discussion between all people to stay vigilant and aware of these types of cases in their own neighborhoods.

You’ve been a part of the developmental process of Safe Harbor from the beginning to it’s present World Premiere. How are you feeling about it?
I honestly can’t believe how far we’ve come since first being involved with “Safe Harbor”. The story has changed and evolved much with the help of research and table work between other artists, Tira, and the members of LDTE. I feel honored to be involved with such a powerful story and to share the stage with talented individuals who constantly lend their compassion to these characters and to the importance of this subject matter.

“Safe Harbor”, written by Tira Palmquist, directed by Anita Dashiell-Sparks, runs Saturdays 8pm, Sundays 3pm & 7pm (check listings) and Mondays 8pm at The Zephyr Theatre (7456 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046) through December 15th. Visit www.lower-depth.com for tickets and more information. Presented by The Lagralane Group, produced by Kat Rienbold and Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble.