Human trafficking victims rescued in new reality TV show

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |
Side-by-Side International Church members in Orange County try to help prostitutes exit a life of human trafficking. | Photo: A&E

SANTA ANA, Calif. (Christian Examiner) -- For several years, Side-By-Side Church in Orange County, California, has leveraged the law enforcement experience of Senior Pastor Kevin Brown, a retired police officer, to help prostitutes and escorts leave their street walking life in Los Angeles. Now, the church's efforts at helping victims of human trafficking is slated to be a new reality series called "Eight Minutes" on the A&E network next year.

Executive producer Tom Forman (Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, The Great Food Truck Race) told Entertainment Weekly that he decided to pursue the show after reading a Los Angeles Times article detailing an eight-minute intervention with a prostitiute by Brown and a team of church volunteers.

"We read that and thought somebody should put a camera on this, it's the most incredible thing I've ever heard," he said. "This is one of those great shows that was actually happening whether anybody was shooting it or not."

Currently in production for an eight-episode series, the show will follow Brown and his team -- which includes former prostitutes -- as they go undercover into hotel rooms to offer waiting escorts a new life. The church website indicates that volunteers can choose to participate on various levels, but must first undergo a series of training sessions.

"(Brown) was a full-time cop turned full-time pastor. As a cop, he worked vice. He saw girls who had been abused by their pimps, girls who really needed a helping hand, and what he had to do as a cop is arrest them. Now that he's running a church, he can offer them that help."

The hour-long programming depicts the dangers and precautions of the interventions, each limited to eight minutes for safety.

"They've got eight minutes to talk her out of prostitution. If she says yes, that's great. If after eight minutes she hasn't, they give her a phone number and tell her they'll always be there, but they cut off the intervention."

At least 50 percent of the women choose to secretly leave with Brown's team. The show then follows their story as they re-enter society. "It's a pretty big decision and a fairly intensive program if you choose to take him up on his offer," Forman said.

Brown dedicated his life to God following a "Saul of Tarsus" conversion as a police sergeant in 1991, and began working to "transform injustice" in his local community, nationally and overseas.

From ending child starvation in third world nations to gang intervention in Orange County, Side-By-Side church members actively participate in ministries that seek to infiltrate their community with the hope of God's love.