You know the tightening feeling in your heart that happens when you're confronted with a huge issue that you feel you can do nothing about? The world is full of so much hurt and when faced with overwhelming numbers and statistics, it makes the influence of a single person seem minuscule in comparison.
That's how I felt when I thought about human trafficking. I've always had a heart for the issue, but when I learned about how heartbreakingly vast the problem was, it felt like there was nothing I could do to make a difference. I'm not a lawyer, I can't travel to foreign countries and pull women and children out of the reach of entrapment, I can't even donate hundreds of dollars to aid people who can. I felt hopeless.
The facts are these: there are over 20 million people (men, women and children) in slavery around the world, and about 80% of the victims are sexually exploited. According to Equality Now, sex slavery is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. It's not just an over-seas issue either. The FBI reported that, although it's impossible to put an exact number on the amount of domestic victims, it happens all over the country (likely in your city), particularly on interstate traffic. The victims are primarily at-risk women and children, sometimes as young as 8 or 9, and can do virtually nothing to escape on their own.
Overwhelmed? You're not alone.
Blythe Hill, the founder of the Dressember Foundation, felt the same way, but didn't let her feeling of overwhelm stop her from doing something about it. I had the chance to speak with her a little bit about the history of Dressember, and what their goals are for this year's campaign.
The concept behind Dressember is simple: you commit to wearing dresses for the entire month of December. The dress acts as a "flag" and conversation starter (because, really, who is crazy enough to wear dresses in the coldest season the year?), and ultimately, as a way to raise awareness and funds for victims of sex trafficking. Dressember is aligned with A21 and the International Justice Mission and expects this year to be the biggest yet. To join, sign up here.(SL&Co. is hosting our own team and we'd love to have you on it!)
*read till the end to enter to win the Dressember swing dress ;)
Tell us a little bit about the backstory of Dressember and how it all started.
BH: I came up with the idea while I was in college. I was feeling like I needed a creative outlet, but didn't have much free time. I decided to try a personal style challenge, and came up with the idea to where a dress every day for a month. The next full month was December, and I came up with the name Dressember. Since I love puns, that pretty much sealed the deal.
Why do you think a seemingly simple idea sparked such powerful change around the world?
BH: For years, I had been looking for a way to engage in the fight against modern day slavery. I didn't have much money to give, and I wasn't pursuing a career in social work, law, psychology, or any field that seemed to connect to making a difference, so I felt powerless. When I decided to align Dressember with anti-trafficking, it came out of that long-standing desire to engage. What has been remarkable is that so many other women must have been feeling the same way-- eager to physically engage in the fight to end human trafficking-- because it has spread so much and grown so quickly.
Many SL&Co. readers already have fairly limited wardrobes- what would you say to someone who is nervous about the thought of wearing a dress for 31 days?
BH: Often people hear about Dressember and think they need to go buy a bunch of dresses-- you don't! You can share with friends, sisters, roommates, or consider taking on the extra challenge of wearing the same dress every day all month. I've done that for about 3 of the last 7 Dressember seasons, and I'm always surprised by how limitations stimulate creativity. If someone is nervous about wearing dresses for other reasons than wardrobe limitations, I'd encourage them to check our FAQ page-- we address cold weather, jobs that require pants, and more.
Besides joining in the Dressember challenge, what is something "regular people" can do to help fight human trafficking either locally or globally?
BH: Honestly, spreading awareness about the issue is a HUGE need. People still think this doesn't happen, or that it only happens in poor countries. Slavery exists today in every major city in the world, and here in the US at truck stops, massage parlors, around every major sporting event, and more. The children of the US foster system are especially at risk-- when they run away or go missing, no one is looking for them. Traffickers target them for this reason.
How much have Dressember participants raised in the past? Do you have a new goal for this year's campaign?
BH: In three years, thousands of women have raised over $1.5 million. We hope to raise $1.5 million this year alone!
When you're not inspiring people around the world to put a stop to human trafficking, what do you enjoy doing?
BH: Haha-- that makes me sound so magnanimous! Honestly, I'm just a normal person-- I love binge watching netflix (currently re-watching Gilmore Girls), reading, crafting, and cooking (shout out to Blue Apron for making cooking less intimidating for me)!
Now for the giveaway!
Blythe was sweet enough to offer a FREE Dressember dress from their collaboration with Elegantees to one lucky SL&Co. reader (it's the one pictured- I'm obsessed, SO soft and versatile). Enter here:
Never underestimate the power of simply using your voice. Together we CAN stop human trafficking. Join our team here!