This year I had the honor of participating in the Dressember project again. I was able to be more disciplined than years past and had very few days where I forgot to where a dress. Each time I dreaded putting one on, instead of grumbling and caving into my desire to wear jeans, I remembered this slight discomfort is my means of standing in solidarity with those exploited by sex trafficking and it’s bigger than my comfort or desire for pants. I wrote a piece for Sincerely, Kindred about my thoughts on Dressember but the question remains… what now?
” …I’m not wearing a dress every day for the month of December for vanity’s sake; I’m more of a leggings and dry shampoo sort of girl. I’m also not the only one doing Dressember, thank goodness for that or I’d be that crazy dress in December girl by myself. Allow me to introduce you to the Dressember project, and in effect introduce you to big part of my heart.
The Dressember website states their mission as:
“Dressember uses fashion to advocate for women who’ve been exploited. As women take on the creative challenge of wearing a dress for the 31 days of December, they are advocating for the inherent dignity of all women.”
Women rally together in the month of Dressember by raising awareness through their fashion choice. While committing to wearing a dress every day for 31 days fundraising occurs and supports organizations like International Justice Mission, A21 and the like. The funds raised go to combat human trafficking with a specific emphasis on sex trafficking.
And it starts with waking up and putting on a dress.
About four years ago I prayed desperately in a fight against apathy and despondence: “God break my heart by what breaks yours”. Isn’t it beautiful to serve a God who hears? I was aware of sex trafficking but after I uttered this prayer God gave me a fervent passion for this field. Since then, I have dedicated to studying to work in this field and to be a part of the movement against sex trafficking. I recognize I may sound idealistic, too dreamy, and naïve when I speak about this topic. And I recognize that in my life I will not see the end of sex trafficking. But I will continue to wake up every day like I could. And the greatest thing I have realized in my preparation is even if it was just one person victimized this way, we should be doing everything and anything to restore their dignity and free them from the bondage of sex trafficking.
Dressember picks up on the same note. Even if it’s just wearing one dress a day for a month, that matters. Because it’s becoming a voice for the voiceless. It’s becoming an advocate in the midst of whatever your job, your life, your existence is. It’s taking the symbol of women and declaring that this is beautiful, this is dignified, this is worth it.
So I put a dress on today. By putting on this dress I embodied Proverbs 31:25, “She is clothed with strength and dignity” because she is, even though her voice has been stripped of her and her dignity held captive. I invite you to join in being a voice of justice. We’re a little over a third of the way through but it’s not to late to dress for advocacy. It’s not too late to make a contribution to Dressember in lieu of a red cup holiday beverage from Starbucks. I invite you to be a voice of justice through the means of fashion, because it’s more than just a dress.
This field is my passion and chosen study but for many, there is a frustration that comes with projects such as this: what are we suppose to do now? You have just had your heart broken by the realities of these atrocities but you may feel helpless and useless in the field. The heartbreak from this tragedy is very real and should be sobering, but we have hope in Christ. I have compiled a list of some ways to continue the ministry and work against sex trafficking beyond the month of Dressember.
The power of prayer is to not be undermined in this circumstance. Pray for radical rescue missions that point to God’s glory. Pray for girl’s to feel God’s peace in the midst of bondage. Pray that the identity of God as “Father” can be redeemed by those that have no example of a loving father in their life. Pray that you don’t get numbed by this reality and will consistently have a passion for this field. Pray that those that exploit will be convicted and that they’ll come to know God too (yes we must pray for those that cause pain, they are are pain too and victims of a fallen world). Pray for justice. Pray for how God is moving in your life to be a vessel of justice. We must surrender this in prayer, in lament, praise, exhortation, and pleas.
I know, also cliche. But did you see how Dressember was a vessel of justice this month? They raised $1.3 MILLION. The work that they will be able to do is incredible. Rescue missions, aftercare, awareness, etc. That million wasn’t raised by a single donation. That’s the composition of donations, small and large. If you can’t personally go into ministry this way, then SEND.
William Wilberforce is one of biggest heroes. He worked to end slavery in Britain and he is quoted to have said: “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know”. Wow. I love that so much. How quickly we look away so our hearts don’t hurt as much and we can continue in the comfort of our innocence. But now you know! Our responsibility as global citizens is to educate others, educate ourselves, and to raise children and communities where the youth is nurtured, cared for, and aware. Awareness won’t eradicate sex trafficking but neither will rescue. We must work hand in hand to combat sex trafficking.
4. Be vessels of justice
Be asking yourself what need is presented in your immediate community. Be mobilizing justice in your own circle. If you see suspicious activity? Report it. Those reports lead to busts more frequently than people know. Do you see vulnerable demographics in your town (foster kids, low income, etc)? Reach out to them, and don’t let vulnerable circumstances win again. Be a bearer of justice in the small ways, they add up.
5. Don’t normalize stigmas
One of my biggest pet peeves is how casually teenagers throw around the phrases “Ho, whore, pimp” and the like. Or to joke about those who are prostitutes. Recognize that prostitution isn’t a profession and to joke about resorting to that if you fail a class isn’t funny. If we continue to make light of this issue the issue will dim in it’s severity. Don’t be a part of the problem in this regard and speak up if your friends or company are.
6. Don’t feed the problem
So many purchases made exploit and people are not aware of the harm their dollar has. Labor trafficking goes hand in hand with sex trafficking and we are not allow to cherry pick which sort of exploitation we care about. Look at your coffee, your chocolate, your clothes. So many big names exploit and keep people in poverty. You can actually calculate your slavery imprint here. I’m not perfect at this (I fail in many ways) but let’s start to change that. Shop fair trade, buy local, and cut out the purchases that you know exploit. Another big industry that feeds the problem is more overt and is pornography. Pornography is not only detrimental in interpersonal and emotional ways, but also exploits the women that are victimized by the porn industry. Sure, it looks a little more glamorous but the exploitation remains the same. Check out Fight the New Drug for more information.
Dressember is a start. I hope that after this month your heart is more broken and bent towards this cause that you will be open to how you can be a part of the solution. This list is not exhaustive but there are ways in the daily that we can be actively combating sex trafficking. Friends, let our hearts be broken by what breaks God’s today.