When you hear about human trafficking, what comes to mind? If you’re like most, myself included, you imagine a child or teenager being kidnapped, usually in a developing country. This is how it goes down in movies and real-life cop documentaries, so why wouldn’t we assume that? The thought it terrifying, but that’s not at the crux of human trafficking and the sex trade.
Scary words, right? “The sex trade.” The industry that generates 32 billion US dollars every year. The third most lucrative, international crime industry – only behind narcotics and arms dealing. With roughly half of those profits made in developed countries.
The fact of the matter is, trafficking happens through coercion and manipulation. Traffickers prey on poverty-stricken and downtrodden. In developed countries like Canada and the US, an overwhelming number of victims are already known to be at risk; they’re often in social systems, are without family, and lack support and guidance. For example, 9 out of 10 female sex victims in Los Angeles come from foster homes. These heartless A-holes prey on these easy targets by manipulating their cravings for consistency and love. Women and girls who want love so much, they’re willing to accept even a warped version of it.
Why am I talking about this right now?
Sorry, I don’t mean to interrupt your day with an email or social media post that brings you down, but this is important.
Near the end of December, I received a DM from a follower asking if I’d heard of an organization called Dressember. I hadn’t. The internet seems full of ways we can dress, apply makeup, shave, and on and on, to raise awareness for one great cause or another. And, if I’m frank: it’s overwhelming. How can I possibly help? Make a difference? Trust where my donations go to is helpful?
Nonetheless, I read up.
I was taken by the Dressember initiative, which was started by someone with a similar career path to mine, Blythe Hill. I chatted with Blythe, to understand why and how she got involved in this cause. She’d started hearing the truths behind the sex trafficking industry, and the more she researched the problems and causes, the more passionate she became about helping. But, what could a woman who worked in fashion do? She wasn’t a social worker. She wasn’t in the UN. She wasn’t a prosecutor.
Still, she knew she couldn’t stand by and do nothing.
In the December of 2009, Blythe challenged herself to wear a dress each day for pledges. And she did. The following year, some friends joined in. The year after that, her friends’ friends. I believe Blythe’s own words on stage at TEDx do this story more justice than I ever could.
By 2013, Dressember had become an official fundraiser, with 1,233 participants across 32 countries, as the organization partnered with the International Justice Mission. In 2015, A21 joined the movement. And, the team was just shy of their $1.5million goal in 2016.
“Yo! Stef, it’s January,” you say.
Well look at you, you lil’ smarty-pants. It is indeed January. As I’ve learned from Blythe, 1) you do what you can with what you’ve got, and, 2) January is human trafficking awareness month when Dressember’s 2017 donations will close.
So here I am, albeit a little late to the game, super impressed they’ve already passed their lofty $2million goal. The money raised will be funding the “boots on the ground” teams that work domestically and abroad, doing survivor work. Organizations like A21 and IJM have the government contacts and resources for education that can help these incredibly strong survivors speak up, identify when relationships aren’t normal, and more. I strongly suggest you watch her TEDx, I’m sure you’ll be as moved as I was.
Stay tuned… I’ll definitely be taking on this challenge in December.
P.S. Friends, I’ll probably need to borrow some dresses…