Written by Beth Richardson. Media by Kelsey Middleton.
Each December, women join together to fight against human trafficking in the form of wearing a dress every day. This is to restore power to dresses and women alike. Two years ago, I participated in this challenge. Not many people knew what it was, so I was fundraising on my own. I gave myself a goal of $200 and quickly exceeded it. This year, the movement has grown massively and I am able to participate again, but on a team where we have a collective goal of $1,000. Participating, in general, is empowering, but having a team of women who are doing the same thing is even better.
So, can a dress change the world? Blythe Hill, founder of the Dressember movement says, “Yes. The dress is our uniform, the flag of our movement. Dressember is an opportunity to reclaim and reappropriate the dress as a symbol of freedom and power; a flag for the inherent dignity of all people.”
Many people like to pretend that human trafficking only existed long ago or exists in countries far away. The reality is that human trafficking occurs right under our noses. The Super Bowl alone is the single largest human trafficking event in the United States. According to The International Justice Mission, “Human trafficking generates about $150 billion a year.” That is a staggering number, but while the culture that surrounds sex trafficking is what needs to stop, donations to movements like Dressember service immediate needs and allow police and social workers to perform rescue operations. Last year, advocates raised almost $1.5 million and Dressember distributed the money to the International Justice Mission, A21, and McMahon Ryan, their first domestic partner.
Only a week into December, advocates have raised nearly $400,000 of this year’s goal of $2 million. Instagram feeds are exploding with pictures of dresses, as people use social media to get the word out. It is fascinating how we can use the media to inspire people to action. While women may be the ones wearing dresses, men can take action too through wearing a tie or bowtie all month. People are bound to ask questions, which brings the topic to the table for discussion.
Each advocate has a different story, way of raising money and awareness, and reason for participating. Emily Maddox, a senior, shares of why she decided to participate, “I did Dressember because I felt God calling me to really make people aware of what so many women suffer through every day, especially after hearing that even in our safe town of Greenville, human trafficking happens at [places like] Love’s gas station. God has been bringing up human trafficking so much to me this semester alone that I knew I had to answer His call.” Jasmine Webber, a sophomore states, “For years I lived in insecurity and fear, believing I wasn’t heard or taken seriously. But, this semester I’ve been learning that I do have a voice. I have also been convicted of being a bystander Christian, praying for the hurts of the world, but never doing anything about it. This year, I decided I would move in action and do something about the human trafficking tragedy around the globe…[Dressember] is a symbol and reminder of women’s strength and beauty.”
When asked what the best part is about Dressember so far, Emily Maddox says, “…on the second day, I participated in Urban Plunge and was assigned with a group of people to help a man taking [the] siding off of his house. Which growing up, I was always told that if I am doing work, ‘it’s not a fashion show’ and I need to dress ready to work. So that being said, I had to overcome my mental state of ‘I’m in a dress, I can’t do anything too crazy’ and remind myself that I am empowering women and myself through proving that I can do something as crazy as climb up scaffolding and take siding off a house in a dress and leggings! It ended up being such an amazing and empowering experience.”
As Christians, the issue of human trafficking should be deeply concerning. There are countless instructions in the Bible to resist evil and rescue those who are oppressed. Psalm 82:4 says, “Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” This is to say that rescue missions to save those trapped in human trafficking are operations of justice. Proverbs 21:15 says, “When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.” In other words, those who help the oppressed and needy are joyful because what they have done is just, but justice cast down upon evildoers only brings fear.
One of the most frightening things about human trafficking is that it exists everywhere. We cannot simply pretend it only hides in dark alleys far away. While it is impossible for one person to change the whole industry of human trafficking, one person can wear a dress for the month of December and start prompting questions and raising money. It only takes one person to start a movement.