The Day I Felt Violated

by Michelle Brock on October 28th, 2011

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My Grade 4 Class in Ethiopia (I am on the front left with the smirk and purple sweater)

My family moved from Finland to Ethiopia when I had just finished grade two, and many of my childhood memories reside in the Horn of Africa. They were very good memories – of chasing hyenas, having a dozen nationalities represented in one classroom, and taking horse riding lessons to the sound of prayers being recited through the booming loudspeaker of the nearby Orthodox church.

I saw Africa through the eyes of a child, and it was wonderful.  The abandoned tanks I saw in the fields were merely big toys to climb on, and the small, ornate wooden boxes I saw for sale on the streets were just decorative pieces of furniture (I didn’t know they were children’s coffins until years later).  We moved to Canada when I was 12 years old, and all through high school I had a strong desire to go back and see Africa through the eyes of an adult.

namibiaAfter graduation I had the opportunity to volunteer in Namibia, and through it was on the other side of the continent from where I had had my childhood adventures, it was good to be back in Africa.  The smells and sounds brought memories rushing back, and I savoured them. But I was an adult now, and got to see and experience the brokenness and pain that were also part of the continent’s fabric.

I held a baby who had been born with AIDS, drew pictures with street kids whose only source of income was selling wire hangers, and sang songs with eighth graders whose chance of contracting HIV were greater than that of graduating high school.  But because none of these issues affected me personally, I was able to keep my distance emotionally.

One day my friend Sarah and I washed our clothes and set them out to dry in the backyard.  It started to rain, but the Namibian sun had a way of drying things quickly so the clothes were left on the line through the storm.  Or so we thought. Someone came into the yard while it was raining and stole every last article of clothing, right down to our underwear!  I was angry.  We felt violated. We kept looking for people in town wearing our T-shirts, skirts, pants.  I hoped that it had at least been someone with a real need for clothing and not someone with malicious intent.


That is the most violated I have ever felt in my life. Many of you read this in disbelief, because you have been violated much more profoundly.  I cannot even imagine what is must be like to experience physical, sexual, or verbal abuse.   My heart goes out to you if you are one suffering or have suffered through this.

I recently watched Nefarious: Merchant of Souls, and excellent documentary about the global sex trade. In it a woman explains how she got into prostitution at a very young age.  She had been sexually abused as a child by a family member, and when she was in her early teen years, a man offered her money for sex.  She thought, “What?  Someone is willing to pay me for what someone else is already taking from me for free?” That began her life in prostitution, which robbed her of so much more than clothes off a line.  It breaks my heart that so many women in prostitution have sexual abuse in their pre-prostitution past, and it demonstrates that being violated can lead into a cycle of abuse and exploitation.

What is our role in ending abuse in homes?  What can we do to ensure that people do not violate others?  Asking these questions is important if we are to stop the downward spiral of exploitation and trafficking.

Michelle Brock



In Pictures: Ride for Refuge

by Michelle Brock on October 25th, 2011

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Ali Moore ready to start pedaling!

Hope for the Sold was a Ride for Refuge partner this fall, and some amazing people hopped on bikes and rode to support our documentary project! It was great to see representation from cities across the country – Vancouver BC, Red Deer AB, and London ON.

These riders raised $2,510 for Hope for the Sold, and I am happy to announce that thanks to their efforts (as well as others who I will write more about later), our film is now over 10% funded! This is a milestone for Hope for the Sold, and those of you who raised support through the RIDE played a big part in that.

I asked those who took part in the RIDE to send in some pictures from RIDE day.  Here they are!


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Channing & Kim McCrae ready to hit the road in Red Deer

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Love, Sweat & Gears!

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Byrdie & Bev Funk after the RIDE in Vancouver

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Riding through the fog


Arron Vickery, one of the riders from London, didn’t have pictures but summarized how positive of an experience the RIDE was for him:

“The ride went really well, big turn out, good weather, and lunch was amazing. Whoever the volunteers were they should open their own restaurant. Myself and another member rode the full 100 Kms. I’ve never peddled that far before in one go, but it was a very rewarding challenge.”

To all of you who rode for us in Vancouver, Red Deer, and London, I can’t thank you enough! You sacrificed your time and your energy because you have a heart for the vulnerable and exploited.  I can only imagine how they would feel knowing that someone like you had them in mind as you raised support and put on your helmets.

Michelle Brock



Respect Women…Pass It On!

by Michelle Brock on October 20th, 2011


respect women

Do you have a son? Teach him that women have value and worth.
Do you have a brother? Show him that women have dreams and ambitions.
Do you have a nephew? Give him a lesson in what it means to be a man of integrity.
Do you have a cousin? Inspire him to stand up for what’s right.

How are you passing on the message today?

Michelle Brock


Nefarious: Merchant of Souls Screenings

by Michelle Brock on October 19th, 2011

I am super excited that Nefarious: Merchant of Souls, a film about sex trafficking, is being screened in Ontario this month! Check out this trailer and see the event info below.

Screening Information:

CITY: Toronto ON
WHEN: Friday, October 21, 2011
WHERE: Catch the Fire Toronto, 272 Attwell Drive Toronto, ON M9W 6M3
WHAT TIME: 7:30-10:30 pm
EVENT CONTACT: Catch the Fire website


CITY: Ottawa ON
WHEN: Tuesday October 25, 2011
WHERE: Dominion Outreach Centre, 8A-2016 Ogilvie Road, Ottawa, ON K1J 7N9
WHAT TIME: 7-9pm
EVENT CONTACT: Rachel Steele at 613 749 5050 or email [email protected]

CITY: Stratford ON
WHEN: Saturday October 22, 2011
WHERE: Jubilee Christian Fellowship, 707 Downie St., Stratford ON N5A 1Y8
WHAT TIME: 7-9pm
EVENT CONTACT: Church website

If there is an event here I missed, please send me all the details and I will add it! Those of you in the US, here is the whole list of screening dates.

This movie is going to be absolutely incredible, so I hope all of you in the GTA/Ottawa area can make it!

Michelle Brock



Christmas Pick #1: Sending A Box of Love to Moldova

by Michelle Brock on October 17th, 2011

Christmas wreathYes, it is true. Christmas is coming!  Making this announcement is strange for me, as I have rules surrounding the timeline of when it is appropriate to start formally anticipating Christmas.  November 1st is the day I usually start listening to the occasional Christmas song, followed by making cards by the middle of the month and eating candy canes and decorating right before December begins.  I am a tradition person, can you tell?! The fact that there are still leaves holding onto trees tells me that today’s post will break some of these rules.  But I promise it’s well worth it.

Last year I started a new Christmas tradition, one that has the potential to save lives, spread joy, and truly make a difference.  From now until Christmas, I will be highlighting Christmas Picks that will help promote anti-trafficking efforts, bless the vulnerable and exploited, and support victims.  Are you as excited as I am??!!

The first pick of the season is sending some love to orphans in Moldova.  Stella’s House (Philip Cameron Ministries) is doing incredible work in this impoverished Eastern European country.  Please watch this clip to hear from some of the girls who found themselves in a vulnerable position and how Stella’s House was their lifeline when they needed it most.  Read here about why orphans in Moldova are at high risk for being trafficked, and how Stella’s House is stepping in before it’s too late.

You may have at some point  filled a Christmas box for a child in Africa or Asia. But have you ever sent one to Moldova? There are about 12,500 orphans in the country, which is a significant number considering that the population is only about 3.5 million.  Stella’s House is raising funds above and beyond their normal operating costs this year to get Christmas boxes to these ‘forgotten’ children.

Due to logistics, they are not asking people to send a box but to give $25.00 which will cover the cost of one box.  To go along with your gift, they ask that you download this card, print it, sign it, and send by mail to the address below.  They will include a card in each box, so that each child gets a personal message from someone who is thinking about them from across the world.  How beautiful is that?

The reason I write this in the fall is because they are shipping the boxes on October 30th. This means that your donation and your card must have arrived at their office by that date. Here are the instructions in 3 easy steps:

  1. Download and print your card here.  Write a note of encouragement and sign it.
  2. Make an online donation ($25.00) per box here.
  3. Send your card to:

Stella’s Voice
P.O.Box 241241
Montgomery AL
36124 USA

This is an American organization and I don’t think tax receipts for Canadians are available. Please do not let this stop you though…think Christmas spirit! What a beautiful way to love kids without parents this Christmas season. For more information, check out the Stella’s Voice website.

Michelle Brock


Freedom Event At York University This Weekend!

by Michelle Brock on October 13th, 2011

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Get more details here!

Michelle Brock


An Agonizing Essay & Some Big Questions

by Michelle Brock on October 11th, 2011

war12In university I took a political science class called “Conflict & Conflict Resolution,” in which we studied global security issues, war, and threats to peace.  The question laid before us was this: what causes conflict? What is the primary cause of war?

My professor spent the first week convincing us that conflict is mainly caused by issues of security. One country builds its weapons arsenal because it is afraid of its neighbour, who in turn feels threatened and points its guns right back.  The feeling of having one’s security threatened eventually leads to war.  We read articles and had debates.  Yes, indeed security (or lack thereof) seemed to be the number one reason for conflict.

The following week the same professor had us wipe our memory clean of what we had just learned, and went about convincing us that the primary cause of war is greed.  Money is what motivates people, and there would be no conflict if the love of money did not exist.  This also seemed reasonable.  After all, so many of the worlds violent conflicts have been over diamonds, spices, oil.

Can you guess what happened the next week?  The main cause of war was no longer security or greed, but ran along ethnic, cultural, and religious lines. We read story after story of conflicts sparked by groups of people hating other groups of people because of such differences.  How else can the bloodbath between Serbians and Croatians be explained? Once again I felt compelled.

Finally on the fourth week, we learned that the root of conflict really comes down to the most basic environmental resources. Israel and Palestine fighting for water rights in a desert.  Communities in impoverished countries rising up against multinational corporations that were destroying the environment that kept them alive.  As I sat in class I could only imagine what people were willing to do out of desperation when someone else hoarded the natural resources that they relid on.


After all this, our professor asked us to write a paper answering the question: “What is the main cause of conflict?”

Brilliant. I have never agonized over a paper so much in my life.  My professor had clearly made a point that war and conflict are complicated, and those trying to bring peace to these areas need to realize that the issues are all connected somehow.

That class taught me so much about the world, and I have been able to apply what I have learned in various other contexts.  Lately I have been thinking about how these same variables could affect, motivate, spark, or foster human trafficking.

gun threat11Security. Boys whose fathers and uncles are involved in the flesh trade might find themselves in a precarious position if they don’t join the business. Their future and personal security could be at stake if they do not meet expectations. Traffickers who want to quit the trade or cooperate with authorities fear for their safety, as traitors are not treated with grace.

Girls who have been trafficked are also affected by concerns for security.  Many are threatened with the safety of their families back home if they do not cooperate.  Traffickers are particularly crafty at manipulating young mothers by saying they will kill their child if they do not perform.  And they often do.  Security is definitely a variable that keeps the cycle of trafficking moving.

Greed. Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry.  Traffickers capitalize on lust to make a buck, and many drug traffickers switch over the the sale of humans because the profit margin is so much higher.  You can sell a weapon or drugs once, but you can sell a woman’s body over and over again.

Ethnicity. The way that each culture views women plays a huge role in trafficking.  In North America a strange scenario is at play, because music videos, TV, and advertisements often portray women as sex objects even though the workplace and academic world is getting progressively more equal.

Men who pay for sex often justify their actions through ethnic stereotypes.  Author Benjamin Perrin was once interviewed on a radio station and the host referred to Aboriginal women as “just hookers.” Many guys convince themselves that Asian girls love to fulfill their sexual fantasies because they are “submissive by nature.”  Traffickers who have wives and children at home have no problem selling girls from other families, especially if they are of another nationality.  Ethnicity is absolutely wrapped into the flesh trade.

Environment. My friend Tara recently went to visit the floating village slums of Cambodia.  An estimated 1 to 2 million people live on the river in little shacks that float on the water, and they technically do not exist according to the government.  To help wrap your mind around this reality, you can read Tara’s article describing her experience.  She explains that because the river has become so toxic, the men can no longer find fish and have to travel upstream for their food.  The lack of accessible food makes these families extremely vulnerable, and many are selling their daughters so the rest of the family can afford something to eat.

Security.  Money.  Ethnicity.  Natural resources. They spark wars and perpetuate exploitation. They make countries bomb other countries and traffickers manipulate the vulnerable.  They lead to bloodshed and rape, pillage and brothels.  But I believe that fear and greed are the the common themes that weave themselves into each of these factors.  Ultimately this is a heart issue, isn’t it?

What do you think is the strongest factor in sex trafficking?  Are there other variables that are missing?  How are we perpetuating trafficking?  How is our society perpetuating it?  And what can we do to reverse it?

Michelle Brock


This Weekend at Hamilton’s Corktown Tavern: A Fundraising Concert to Fight Sex Trafficking

by Michelle Brock on October 4th, 2011

This weekend, Voices of the Broken is putting on a fundraiser concert to fight sex trafficking.  All ticket sale proceeds are going to Ratanak International, an amazing organization that works with victims in Cambodia.  Here are three reasons you should check it out after your Thanksgiving dinner!

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Troy Western, Polarity, and Havenstance will rock the place out, and Jessika Mak from Ratanak will be the guest speaker for the evening.  I personally know Jessika, as well as Pat and Yifan from Voices of the Broken, and I promise you will not be disappointed!  This is an event you don’t want to miss!

  • WHEN: Sunday Oct. 9, 2011
  • WHERE: Corktown Tavern, 175 Young St., Hamilton ON
  • WHAT TIME: Doors open at 7pm
  • TICKETS: Available at the door or buy them in advance online.  Suggested donation per ticket: $15.

To get more info on child exploitation and Ratanak’s response, I suggest you read this.  If you have any questions, contact Voices of the Broken through their website or facebook page.

Thanksgiving weekend is a perfect time to give others something to be thankful for: their freedom.

Michelle Brock