Sunday, July 1, 2012

Women To Go

Today I had the opportunity to take part in an event to raise awareness about the problem of sex trafficking in America.  The event was called "Women To Go," & was previously put on at a busy shopping mall in Israel in 2010.  That event earned media attention in 22 different countries, & inspired one woman to re-create the event here in Chicago.

Here's a video of the event in Israel:
As you can see from the video, women volunteered to pose as models & stand in store windows, looking as if they had been abused...& as if they were for sale.  I had the opportunity to be on both sides of the window today, first as a model & then as someone handing out information & asking people to sign our petition to asking them to remove the "adult services" section from their website.  First things first; makeup to make me look as if I'd been beaten.  I smiled & chatted with my makeup artist, & told her I hadn't worn much makeup so she'd have alot to work with.  "Well, you're about to get hit in the mouth," she replied solemnly as she smeared purple eyeshadow on her finger & began to apply it on my chin.  Her makeup application was so convincing that several people stopped to ask if we were really okay...they couldn't believe we were just volunteers in makeup!

From behind the window, I noticed several things.  Within the first couple of minutes I realized that if I made eye contact with people it made them uncomfortable enough to slow down at least long enough for one of the volunteers to explain what we were doing.  The next thing I noticed was how many people would glance over at us & keep on walking as if there were nothing strange at all about having women for sale in an expensive boutique in the middle of Chicago.  It was interesting to see people's different reactions, everything from shock, to disgust, even to laughter.

On the street it was an entirely different experience.  Some people pretended they didn't hear me talking to them, or quickly waved me away before I even had a chance to tell them what we were doing there.  Others stopped as soon as they heard the word "trafficking" & immediately wanted to sign the petition.  Some got angry at us.  "Are you aware of the problem of sex trafficking in America?" I asked one family walking by.  The man said, "I am, unfortunately," & continued walking.  "Would you like to sign a petition to stop it?" I asked.  The woman with him angrily turned around to me & pointed to the girl she was with: "She's FIVE," she spat at me, quickly flipping me the finger before ducking away into another nearby store.  All of the other volunteers quickly swarmed me.  "What did she say to you?!"  "Did she really just flip you off?!" "It's okay hon, don't let it get you down!"  None of them could believe how rude she was, & I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little shocked as well.  But more than anything, her response & so many others' made me sad.  Firstly, I wondered what sort of things a 5-year-old would be learning from her mother's behavior, but above all it made me sad that she didn't realize her own child could be susceptible to the horrible fate that we were all out there to stand up against.  As they walked away, I began to pray silently that their eyes would be opened to the danger that's out there to girls even as young as five.  Her response was the most unfavorable of the day, but I couldn't believe how many others ignored our efforts all together simply because they didn't want to take on the responsibility of knowing.

All in all though, it was a successful day, with pages & pages of signatures acquired - 643 total!  And there were many positive experiences as well.  One man who signed the petition was a former sex buyer; another woman the owner of a shelter for trafficked girls ages 12-18 in Taiwan.  One of the other models even saw a man pointing to the girls in the window & explaining to his young daughters what human trafficking is, & the dangers they could face.  It was so encouraging to see such positive response, & made the whole afternoon entirely worth it for us all.  I've always said that knowing is half the battle, & there are hundreds of people out there now who know what trafficking is & how it looks in America.  It may not seem like much now, but if it's all I can do I'm going to pour my heart into it!  It was so wonderful to work alongside so many others who are as passionate about this horrible injustice as I am.  It's definitely inspired me to be as involved as I can in any other event that helps people learn what trafficking is & how we can stop it.

If you want to know more & see photos & videos of the event, check out the Women To Go Facebook page.

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