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Voices as Power

International Women's Day: The fight against sex trafficking

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Shared stories, experiences and well, trauma is what most women have in common. Blythe Hill, CEO and founder of Dressember, explains that’s exactly where the inspiration for the organization came from. “There is power in sharing,” she said as we spoke about the organization that helps fight sex trafficking.

“I was about 4-years-old when I began to have the language skills to explain what had happened to me. It’s been a decades-long battle of figuring out my value, my worth as a survivor of sexual assault. So when I started to learn about sex trafficking, I had a very personal glimpse into this exploitation,” she said. “I felt like, how can people not care as much about this issue as I do?”

Blyth Dressember

So let’s start at the beginning: In 2009, Blythe took her new, highly-researched knowledge of this issue and challenged herself to wear a dress every day in December. The following year, a few friends joined in. By the third, her friends were participating more than ever. Fast forward a bit and by 2013, the movement became a full-fledged international campaign to aid in the fight against sex trafficking. It’s actually Blythe’s full-time job now!

“If you really think about it, the #metoo movement has brought consent, or lack of it to the forefront. And human trafficking, that’s the furthest stop on the spectrum of consent.” And she’s right!

According to the United Nations, 4 billion people live outside the protection of the law. That means their police, courts and justice systems are so broken that there is nothing to shield them from violence. Human trafficking generates about a $150 billion a year and around 2 million children are currently exploited in the global commercial sex trade.

In less than 5 years, Dressember has raised over $5 million. This last December saw the organization hit it’s highest single fundraising goal ever - over $2 million towards increasing global awareness and the eradication of slavery and sex trafficking.

They work with grant partners like the International Justice Mission (IJM) to spread awareness and advocate for the victims of human trafficking. “Half of the worlds slaves are from India and IJM has 15 offices in 13 countries. They actually work in the areas they are helping,” said Blythe.

While the number 1 goal of Dressember is to bring about an end to slavery and sex trafficking, Blythe has got a few smaller goals in mind. “Nonprofits are not always the best at collaborating. I think if we could get all of our great organizations together, we could make a more powerful impact. It’s a lot different than the business world,” she said. Combining resources can be harder in the nonprofit world as there is an overlap in funding sources and government aid.

So as this fierce bossy lady continues her message and story sharing, she had a bit of advice for our younger ladies:

I was never called out as a leader. I saw myself as a support role and that was great. It wasn’t until I just realized, we don’t do a great job of recognizing little girls as leaders. It’s much better now but it wasn’t a thing when I was younger, boys were the leaders. This misconception that leaders are born is wrong. Leaders are created.

A list of other fantastic resources in the fight against slavery and sex trafficking:

If you’re in LA this May, do a little good for your soul and your body at Dressember’s 5K.

Charlie Heck

ELU Contributor

Charlie has over 10 years experience in social media, creative copy and multimedia. She runs Checkmark Creative, a marketing boutique for the small biz folks and freelancers. She just moved from the East Coast to the West Coast and is looking for IRL connections. Find her on Twitter & Instagram