On My Mind: Does Raising Awareness Matter?

by Michelle Brock on February 28th, 2011

Pea Coat 223x300I sometimes catch myself having an unabashed chuckle over a post from Stuff White People Like.  The blog satirically lists and describes things that white people like, including TED Talks (which allow us to feel smart without requiring work, time or effort), pea coats in winter (because they are European, Coastal, and vintage – 3 of white people’s favourite things), and comparing politicians to Hitler (but make sure you don’t use the names of other dictatorial figures or you might get a blank stare).

Recently I read a SWPL post about how much people love awareness.  I think you should read it.  But here’s a sneak peek:

What makes this even more appealing for white people is that you can raise awareness through expensive dinners, parties, marathons, selling t-shirts, fashion shows, concerts, eating at restaurants and bracelets. In other words, white people just have to keep doing stuff they like, EXCEPT now they can feel better about making a difference.

slacktivism 300x300This goes hand-in-hand with what has become known as slacktivism, where, as Malcolm Gladwell points out, casual observers can participate in social change through low-cost activities, like joining a “Save Darfur” facebook group.  It has become easier for us to express ourselves, but harder for that expression to actually have a real impact.

As a blogger who loves social justice, this has sent me reeling into a whirlwind of questions.  What is true activism? What is true awareness?  Does blogging count as raising awareness or activism? What about going to an anti-trafficking event?  Or marching for justice in a community walk?  Or writing a play?  Or wearing one dress for 6 months?  Or sending post cards to human trafficking victims?  Or writing a book?  Or signing a petition?

Over the last week I have put some serious thought into the purpose of blogging about sex trafficking.  Here is what I came up with:

  • Awareness leads to accountability.  People can no longer say, “I didn’t know” if they are caught being part of the problem.
  • Awareness in some cases can lead to inaction.  In regard to sex tourism and paying for sex, some men will be persuaded by information to not act on their desires to use a prostituted woman or child.  This is good.
  • Information hopefully leads into conversation, through which opinions are formed.  My hope is that HFTS will become a place you feel comfortable commenting and starting conversation.  I had a woman come up to me at a recent event and say that she came that night thinking prostitution should be legalized, but after the conversation left believing that it would exploit the vulnerable. Her actions will now reflect this new opinion.
  • Spreading awareness reminds people that the world does not revolve around them.  There are issues bigger and more worthy of our time, money, and passion than pursuing self-centered goals that ultimately result in stagnant, boring lives.  Selfless people are more likely to act on behalf of others, and it is awareness that initially equips and inspires them into action.

blog2One thing is for sure: awareness should never be an end in itself. As Clay Shirky says in “The Political Power of Social Media,” awareness and the use of social media to spread it should not be a “replacement for action as much as a coordination for it.”

This is a reminder that we should not have misguided optimism about changing the world just because we join a facebook group or tweet about a social justice event.  In the same way I must be careful that blogging does not become something to hide behind instead of living differently and taking action even when it is uncomfortable or inconvenient.  But for me, this is what it boils down to:

Social reformation always starts with awareness, and that is why I write.

Michelle Brock


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She Has a Name: A Play About Human Trafficking

by Michelle Brock on February 25th, 2011

MP Joy Smith’s office just sent out an email with information about She Has a Name, a play about human trafficking by Andrew Kooman.  The play is making its world premier in Calgary and Red Deer. Here’s a plot description:

She Has A NameJason, a young lawyer, fights to build a legal case against a human trafficking ring in Thailand. His investigation centres on Number 18, a young prostitute working in a Bangkok brothel whose testimony could make or break the case. Thrust into circumstances beyond his control, Jason is haunted by Voices that usher 18 to her fate. Can he win the trust of 18 and convince her to risk her life to testify for the sake of justice?

Calgary Dates: February 23-March 5, 2011.  EPCOR CENTRE’s Motel, 205-8 Ave SE
Red Deer Dates: March 9-12, 2011.  Scott Block Theatre, 4816 – 50 Ave

Showtimes are at 8pm. Get more details here and buy your tickets ($21 ea.) here!

***Update: Just got word that the Calgary events are now sold out.  How exciting!!***

Michelle Brock

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Uproar in Italy: Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Trial for Underaged Sex Scandal

by Michelle Brock on February 23rd, 2011

berlusconi1

The past two weeks I have been following events unfolding in Italy concerning Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.  There is reportedly evidence that he paid for sex with a young woman named Karima el Mahroug when she was under 18 years of age, and even phoned a police station to release her when she was being held there for allegations of theft.  His trial is in April.  Thousands of women have taken to the streets in protest, urging Berlusconi to step down.

Why so much outrage? Perhaps because this is not the first time the Prime Minister has demonstrated his lack of respect for women.  In addition to having sex parties at his villa, in 2009, after a series of rape cases in Italy, Berlusconi stated that the country’s women are so beautiful that they needed escorts to avoid being raped.  Beauty, in his opinion, was the cause for the increased levels of rape. In an attempt to redeem himself, he stated later that his comments should be received with levity and good humour.

It scares me that there are leaders in our world who set such poor examples of what it means to respect women.  Sudan’s Bashir was quoted as saying that Darfurian women should be honoured if a man from northern Sudan rapes them.  If leaders of nations have such attitudes toward women, how is it possible to pass laws that protect victims of human trafficking, sexual violence, and domestic abuse?

leadership by example 300x221I believe that those who are in positions of leadership have a responsibility to set a good example.  Cheating on his wife is one thing. Making insensitive comments about rape and breaking the law by paying for sex with a teenager take it to a whole other level.  If Berlusconi is indeed found guilty, it is time for him to wave goodbye to the Prime Minister’s office.  May this be a reminder for all of us to elect leaders with integrity.

Michelle Brock

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Upcoming Anti-Trafficking Events: Freedom Week 2011 & International Women’s Day

by Michelle Brock on February 20th, 2011

freedom week3 300x149It is my pleasure to announce Freedom Week 2011, organized by Miss Canada Tara Teng and an amazing team of devoted abolitionists!

DETAILS:

  • When: March 6-13, 2011
  • Where: Vancouver BC area

Who can come? The various events provide an opportunity for students, churches, parents, government leaders, women’s groups, journalists, bloggers, artists, and anyone else who is interested in abolishing slavery to learn, network, and take action.  There is something for everyone.

schedule 300x267FREEDOM WEEK SCHEDULE:

  • Sunday, March 6- Prayer Gathering, 7-10pm, Northside Foursquare Church,1477 Lougheed HWY, Coquitlam ($FREE)
  • Thursday, March 10- “Through Their Eyes” Dance/Drama/Music Performance telling the stories of trafficking victims in Canada, 7-9pm, Chandos Pattison Theatre, 10238 168th Street, Surrey($FREE)
  • Friday, March 11- “Limbo” Play about Trafficking, 7:30-9:30pm, Christian Life Assembly Centre- Room 340, 21277- 56 Ave, Langley ($FREE)
  • Saturday, March 12- Freedom Rally and March to end Human Trafficking, Registration begins at 9:30am in Douglas Park, Langley City. March begins at 11am. Rally begins at 1pm. ($FREE)

donations accepted 300x203**All events are FREE admission. However, donations will be collected to benefit local and international organizations that are fighting Human Trafficking/ Modern Day Slavery around the world. Awareness AND Action.

Want to volunteer?

Email [email protected].  They are specifically requesting volunteers for the Freedom March on March 12, to direct crowds and help with set-up and take-down in Douglas Park.  Time commitment for volunteers is from 9-5, or for half the day.

Join the Freedom Week 2011 Facebook group and check out the event page here for updates and announcements.  If you wish to help fund Freedom Week, you can make a donation here.

International Womens Day 300x300

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY EVENTS:

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, REED (Resist Exploitation Embrace Dignity) and EVE (formerly Exploited Voices now Educating) present: Prostitution and Women’s Equality-Imagining More for Women.

Join them as they host Gunilla Ekberg, Swedish-Canadian lawyer and expert on the international human rights of women and girls, presenting on the Nordic Model of law and policy; an alternative to complete decriminalization that enshrines the dignity of women and addresses the male demand for paid sex. Guest panellists from the community will also be present.  This is a great opportunity to learn more about why prostitution should not be legalized in Canada.

DETAILS:

  • westcoastcanada2 300x234Tuesday March 8: 6-8pm, Victoria Public Library’s Central Branch.  Featuring Gunilla Ekberg, Trisha Baptie (EVE), and Lee Lakeman (Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres)
  • Thursday March 10: 7-9pm, Vancouver Downtown Library’s Alice Mackay Room. Featuring Gunilla Ekberg,  Aboriginal Women’s Action Network, and Trisha Baptie (EVE)

For more information contact Michelle Miller at 604.725.3838, or Trisha Baptie at 604.518.4798. Get the International Women’s Day Events PDF poster to spread the word.

What an exciting week for the West Coast!

photo credit wiccked

Michelle Brock

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A Year in Review: Hope for the Sold Blog Celebrates Its One Year Birthday!

by Michelle Brock on February 19th, 2011

happybirthdayblog 1024x378

One year ago today I posted our documentary about sex trafficking in Canada here at HFTS, beginning a wonderful journey of reading, writing, researching, and networking through this fascinating phenomenon called a blog!  It is hard to believe that a year has passed, and I have to send out a huge thank you today to my readers.

For those of you who are bloggers, you know how strange it is to write a post and send it into the mysterious cyberworld for everyone and anyone to see.  Some days it makes you feel vulnerable, and others it seems as if these invisible readers do not even exist.  But based on the comments and emails I have received this year, you are all very real and I am grateful for your support.

On this day of celebration I have compiled a list of stats to show you where the journey has taken us this year.  Know that it is YOU who have made this possible!

globe5 Numbers:

  • Unique visitors: 13,816
  • Page views:  38,139
  • Countries viewed from:  141
  • Blog posts:  114
  • Facebook group members:  3,564

Top 5 Countries by Readership:

  • Canada
  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • India
  • Australia

typing11 199x3005 Countries in which blog posts were written:

  • Canada
  • United States
  • Costa Rica
  • Belize
  • Mexico

Top 5 Most Viewed Posts:

Top 5 Most Liked/Commented on Posts:

My 5 Personal Favorites:

thank you 300x199To those of you who have followed HFTS this past year, THANK YOU! A special thanks to my husband Jay for letting me verbally process ideas, advising me regarding the blogosphere, taking care of the technical side of things, and making sure I don’t get lazy!

And to those who are just now venturing into the deep waters of this topic, I welcome you and look forward to journeying together as part of a modern-day abolition movement.  Let’s end human trafficking together!

Side note: A Freedom Week Promo video is coming up soon…check back here soon especially if you live in BC!

Michelle Brock

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Break the Silence: Video Clip on How Victims of Human Trafficking Feel in North America

by Michelle Brock on February 18th, 2011

I have watched this haunting clip several times now, and it sparks in me some of the same feelings as I had watching the film TRADE. The scene with all the containers lines up with what I was told in an interview about how women are shipped from impoverished countries to North America.

Michelle Brock

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A Thread of Hope: Amy Seiffert Reaches Halfway Mark of Wearing One Dress for 6 Months

by Michelle Brock on February 15th, 2011

Amy Seiffert Day 371Amy Seiffert, a blogger, painter, and mom from Ohio, is wearing a T-shirt dress…for 6 months.  (Yes, she washes it!)  On November 15 she put on the grey dress and has worn it every day since, dressing it up with various accessories and borrowed pieces of clothing.

The money she would have spent buying new clothes is being donated to The Daughter Project, which helps victims of human trafficking in Ohio.  In addition to the money, her wardrobe choice has sparked plenty of conversations and raised awareness about sex trafficking and exploitation.

Today is February 15, marking the halfway point of this experiment.  I am delighted to announce that Amy kindly agreed to write a guest post for Hope for the Sold on this very special day!

vday flowersLove.  Candy.  Gifts.  Flowers.
Lust.  Condoms. Grieving.  Floundering.

What is Valentine’s Day like for the exploited? For the abused? For those held in sexual captivity? As my husband came home with a sweet gift for me, with a warm hug, with something for our son – I was overcome. With thankfulness. With joy. With love and peace and hope. And an hour later I was overcome. Overcome by the idea that young girls, on Valentine’s Day, are not being celebrated. They are being used.

dress3 12 223x300This is not right.
This is not right.
THIS IS NOT RIGHT.

What darkness they live in. What fear. What absence of love. Isn’t the opposite of love, fear?

And yet I will still hang onto a thread of hope. Literally. These gray threads I wear help me hope. Help me pray. Help me remember that 3 months ago today, I put on this dress. To make a statement. To say that women and children are precious jewels. They are rubies and diamonds and sapphires. They are so distinct and set apart that though some may try to wear them down, their beauty cannot be touched. These are the stunning ones. The lovely ones. The ones who we will squint at during the time of redemption because they will shine so bright.

Amy Seiffert dress 21 223x3003 Months have passed. 3 more to go. One Dress. One Hope. One God. To quote The Daughter Project…we don’t know why these horrors happen. But we know we are called to do something about them.

Wanna join me? Anything can be used to raise money, awareness, redemption and hope. Even a simple, gray dress.

-Amy

Check out The Daughter Project, and be sure to follow the rest of Amy’s journey on her blog!  You can also watch a CNN interview with Amy and read this news article by The Toledo Blade.

Thanks Amy for sharing your story and being a voice for those who are suffering.  I’m sure your project will be an inspiration for many abolitionists to get creative in the fight for justice.  We wish you all the best as you tackle the second half of your goal!

Michelle Brock

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Answering a Prayer: Will You Be My Valentine?

by Michelle Brock on February 14th, 2011

prayer for valentine 300x224Love. The word is scattered across posters, billboards, and store fronts this time of year.  The story of St. Valentine is my inspiration as I think about slavery and exploitation:

In 270 A.D., marriage had been outlawed by the emperor of Rome.  It was thought to create weak and unreliable soldiers because they would be reluctant to leave their wives and families during war.  Christianity was also outlawed due to the emperor’s desire to be the only supreme authority.

st valentine mosaicSt. Valentine was a bishop who believed that people should have these freedoms, and secretly performed matrimony services for couples.  He was eventually imprisoned for two counts against the emperor: his faith and his disobedience regarding marriage.  St. Valentine refused to back down, for which he received a three-part execution.  He was beaten, stoned, and decapitated.

It is said that while he was in prison, he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter, and sent her a farewell note signed, “from your Valentine.” He died on February 14, 270 A.D.

St. Valentine stood for justice in the face of a cruel emperor. He was the voice and hope for many young couples.  How can we honour his legacy this Valentine’s Day in the face of slavery and exploitation?  What does it look like to show love to victims of sex trafficking?

Love Is

Victims of forced prostitution are praying for someone to be their Valentine.  Not just someone to give them roses or chocolates, but a true St. Valentine who is willing to stand up for them in the face of organized crime.  People like Sunitha Krishnan.

bhc ecard2 300x216Love 146 asks us this question today: When is a broken heart worth celebrating?

When it changes the world.

Survivors like Timea Nagy, Somali Mam, Trisha Baptie, and Long Pross are telling their stories and helping others do the same.  They are someone’s St. Valentine. Send a Love 146 Valentines E-Card today, remembering those who need love.

Michelle Brock


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Shad Music Video: Keep Shining!

by Michelle Brock on February 11th, 2011

Here is some Friday love for you ladies!  Shad’s new music video shows his respect for women. Beautiful.

Michelle Brock

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Upcoming Event: Dessert Party 2011 in Hamilton Ontario

by Michelle Brock on February 10th, 2011

Do you like dessert, social justice, music, coffee and art?  Check out this event in Hamilton, Ontario this Saturday to support Canada Fights Human Trafficking!

Michelle Brock

Justice and Dessert

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