What a Party! And The Grand Total Is…

by Michelle Brock on December 23rd, 2011

ornaments3A week ago we were invited to The Best Christmas 2011, a party to celebrate the season and give to those in need.  This year Hope for the Sold was chosen as the organization to support, with the proceeds of the evening going to our documentary project.

Dave and Mandy McSporran were the masterminds of this event, and we were blown away by all the people that jumped on board to help them put this thing together – from Jeff and Liz who opened up their beautiful home, to Todd who helped create a fantastic logo, to Reed for taking the majority of these amazing photos, and for everyone who gave of their time and resources to get this off the ground.  A HUGE thank you goes out to a very generous couple who matched the money that came in for the night, making the following announcement a possibility:

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WOW!!!  Our most sincere thanks to ALL of you who came out to the party and gave generously!  This is a HUGE step toward our goal of raising $80,000 – 10% of our project was covered by you guys!

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Check these sponsors out, they are fantastic:

And here are the party shots!

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What a night.  The Best Christmas happens every Christmas, so this is your opportunity to think of next year and what you’d like to support, whether it be with this crowd or your own wherever you are! What a great time to be generous and have fun doing it!  I will be taking about a week’s break from blogging over the holiday season, but will hit the ground running in the new year.  Savour this precious time with your loved ones and I’ll see you in 2012!  MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

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Pinkwashing: Undermining Our Own Efforts to Fight Cancer, Global Starvation & Human Trafficking

by Michelle Brock on December 22nd, 2011

Nail polish.  Eye liner.  Lipstick.  If it has a pink ribbon, it means that your purchase is supporting the fight against breast cancer.  I came across an interesting article this week, about something called “pinkwashing.”  This video clip explains the term:

Ironic isn’t it? Companies that knowingly use cancer-causing ingredients are joining the fight against the very thing their actions are perpetuating.

green revolutionReminds me of how the Green Revolution of the 70′s, which promised to grow crop yields and reduce starvation through super seeds and synthetic fertilizers, ended up impoverishing farmers who lacked capital, ruining soil due to unsustainable practices, and harming the health of millions through toxic chemicals and decreased food nutrition.  The very thing that the Green Revolution claimed to fight – starvation – was in fact facilitating poverty and undermining health.

It also brings to mind the many ways that foreign aid has failed due to a double standard.  Many Western countries, like Canada,  provide aid to other countries.  But often this takes the form of “tied aid,” which is essentially aid with strings attached, such as economic agreements that end up benefiting the rich and crumbling the livelihoods of the poor.  Once again, something that is seemingly helpful is in fact increasing vulnerability.

This has had me thinking about how effective our actions are to curb trafficking.  There are some who claim that legalizing prostitution would make women in the sex industry safer, when in reality this only promotes increased demand for paid sex and subsequently the supply of trafficking victims to fill that demand.

Many men are willing to stand behind anti-trafficking initiatives and even provide financial support to organizations on the front lines, but in reality support the pornography industry significantly more through their personal habits.  Not only are trafficking victims often used in pornography, but as author Victor Malarek points out, “pornography is the trigger that send men into the night following the direction of their erections.”

I think of the decisions of governments – how some are fully on board to fight trafficking in terms of punishing offenders but do nothing to provide opportunities for people to lift themselves out of the poverty that threatens to push them into exploitation.

As the Whistleblower movie demonstrates, peacekeepers from Canada, USA, Germany, France, and a host of other countries are sent out to conflict or post-conflict zones to help stabilize the environment and provide some semblance of safety for the people, but their very presence can create a trafficking-based sex industry in regions where it has never existed before.

coffeeI also think of our North American spending habits.  We often give ourselves a pat on the back when we make a donation or help someone in need.  But do we know where the stuff we purchase and consume comes from?  Like the chocolate we eat?  Or the coffee we drink?  Or the clothes we wear on our backs?  Several men, women, and children experience forced or exploitative labour to produce much of our furniture, trinkets, jeans, treats, fruit, tea, and coffee. Exploitation takes many forms, and our demand for stuff can truly hurt others around the world.

Depressing?  I know. This is probably not fun to read.  But if we truly want to be effective in ending modern day slavery and exploitation, we have to stop looking at ourselves through rose coloured glasses and face the reality that we are contributing to the problem.

Please let this be a challenge to you this coming year to live intentionally, give generously, act consciously, and love abundantly.  Let’s stop pinkwashing our lives and start making choices that radically change the world.  And don’t get overwhelmed, no one is perfect.  I am still learning so much myself.   Just take it one step at a time and celebrate the victories as they happen one-by-one!

What do you think of pinkwashing?  Do you think we live lives of double standards?  What are you doing or want to do to ensure that you are not undermining your own efforts to fight injustice?

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Last Week To Make a Purchase From Our Christmas Gift Catalogue!

by Michelle Brock on December 19th, 2011

I hope you had a great weekend and that your Christmas plans are shaping up nicely!  My weekend was absolutely amazing, as The Best Christmas 2011 was a HUGE success that completely surpassed our hopes and expectations!  I will write a post with pictures later this week to fill you in on all the exciting details.  A big thanks to those of you who came out on Friday!

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Christmas is coming fast, and this week is your last opportunity to make a gift catalogue purchase to support Hope for the Sold!  We’re making a documentary about the legalization of prostitution, its connection to sex trafficking, and some hopeful alternatives that could prevent the abuse of thousands of women and children.  Here are the options once again for those of you who are interested:

25 mins25 Minutes of Film Editing: $25.00

Your gift covers the cost of 25 minutes of editing footage: cutting, dubbing, scrubbing & animating.

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now showingTransportation to a Local Screening Event: $50.00

Once the film is complete, Hope for the Sold will be going on tour to show the film at various churches, schools, and community events. Your gift helps get the show on the road, by providing transportation to a local screening event.

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shooting1An Afternoon of Shooting: $100.00

Your gift of an afternoon of shooting will help cover the costs of conducting interviews and capturing footage in multiple countries, requiring audio set-up, lighting, and lots of equipment!

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stop watch1 Minute of Completed Film: $1000.00

Your gift creates 1 minute of completed film: shooting, editing, audio, animation, the whole kit and caboodle!

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All Canadian gift catalogue purchases are eligible for tax receipts.  Let’s work together to bring sexual exploitation to an end this Christmas season.

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Questions I Have About a Guelph Teenage Prostitution Case

by Michelle Brock on December 16th, 2011

city sign gMy husband and I recently stumbled upon a story of teenage prostitution close to home.  A 40 year-old man named Andrija Kandic, owner of a former Guelph sex shop called Sweet Dreams, is on trial for arranging prostitution services for teenage girls.   Here are the details provided by Guelph Mercury, followed by some thoughts and questions I have about the whole thing.

Two police detectives testified that child pornographic images were found on Kandic’s computers. On one computer there were 333 child pornographic images and 112 were considered accessible. Another computer held 184 child pornographic images, with eight considered accessible. On the USB drive, there were 38 child pornographic images of two Guelph teenagers the Crown alleges were solicited for prostitution on a website.

In addition to the pictures of the two Guelph girls on the computers and USB drive, court heard several of the other images found, that were classified as child pornography were of unidentified children, some ranging from ages 8 to 13 years old.

Kandic is pleading not guilty for the following: permitting someone under 16 and someone under 18 to be in his home to engage in sexual activity, two counts of living off the income of prostitution, possessing child pornography, making child pornography and having child pornography to distribute it.

One of the teenage girls who testified in the case shared these details:

moneyShe met Kandic a couple of years ago when he was selling cigarettes to her and a friend from a native reserve.  She was 15 years old at the time. She noticed that the girl living with Kandic was making a lot of money and asked her how she was doing it.  The girl replied that she was having sex with clients for money.

Eventually, she had a discussion with Kandic about doing the same.

He was very well aware that I was 15, the teenager said, adding they invented a story for the clients that she was about 19 or 20 and in college taking hairdressing and needed tuition money.  She said she would get $120 for 30 minutes with a client and $180 for a full hour. Kandic would take an $80 cut from the hour and $50 from the 30 minute appointments. She said she was given a cellphone and pictures, some nude and some in lingerie, were taken of her and posted online. She recalled Kandic referencing Craigslist for posting the ads. He made it very clear that he would end up doing jail time because I was a minor, she said.

Here is an interesting twist:  The teenage girl foster mother said that on the evening of April 30, 2010, the police brought her foster daughter home dressed in an outrageously sexual outfit with thigh-high boots, a bustier with a shirt tied around it and a short skirt.  The police had picked up the teenager at Kandic home and later that weekend the foster mother went over to his former sex shop to introduce herself because she thought he was dating her foster daughter.

She said she made it known that her child was 15 and Kandic said he realized that. He told her that when the teenager turned 16, she could move in with him, since he ran a rooming house for young girls to teach them life skills.

The trial is on-going and more details will be sorted out as it continues, but here are some of my thoughts and questions so far:

  • What was Kandic doing selling teenagers cigarettes?  Was that part of his strategy for meeting young girls?
  • Did a boyfriend/care-taker relationship form between the teenagers and Kandic?
  • Who are the other pornographic images of?  How did he have access to 8 year-old children?
  • Why would a guy like this start a house to help girls develop life skills?  What exactly do “life skills” mean?
  • Why would a foster mother allow her daughter to live with a 40 year-old at the age of 16 after police had brought her home from his place dressed in an outragously sexual outfit?  Do we need to screen foster parents a little more thoroughly?
  • There are rumours that this same girl was providing escort services through the Love Shop, another Guelph sex shop.  On one hand she admitted she’d told Kandic she was providing services for the Love Shop, but on the other hand she denied in court that she actually did. The Love Shop denies it as well.  If it is indeed just a rumour, how and why did it start?

This is a perfect example of how manipulation and exploitation of vulnerability usually define prostitution and sex trafficking.  In this case, it does not seem that these two teenage girls were kidnapped or being held against their will.  However if the girl’s story proves true,  there are strong elements of manipulation and deception that Kandic has mastered to make a buck off the exploitation of minors.  Through situations like this girls can end up in a lifetime of prostitution because they feel it is the only thing they have to offer the world.  Whether they continue working for a pimp or branch out and provide sexual services on their own, this can hardly be considered a real choice.

Ultimately, the verdict will be established in court, and I will be sure to follow the story as it unfolds and keep you posted.  You can read the Guelph Mercury articles here:

What do you think about this?  What questions does a story like this raise for you?  How can we be part of preventing men from preying on the vulnerability of young girls?

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Spoken Word: When I was 14 by Dawn Saylor

by Michelle Brock on December 14th, 2011

I love spoken word poetry.  This one by Dawn Saylor is powerful.  Thanks Mark Whitt for posting this on our facebook wall.

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You’re Invited…To the BEST Christmas Party Friday December 16!

by Michelle Brock on December 8th, 2011

thebestchristmasIf you are in the Greater Toronto Area, come join us for the Best Christmas Party in Burlington Ontario on Friday, December 16!   Why are we partying?  So that through this project we can help prevent scenarios like this:

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Please add your name to the guest list if you are coming (let me know here if you don’t have facebook)! Hope to see you there!

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One Fine Fellow: Meet Kevin Makins

by Michelle Brock on December 5th, 2011

kevinThis is Kevin Makins.  My husband and I were honoured to have him as a groomsman at our wedding and think he is one of the coolest people around.

Recently Kevin was at a barber shop and overheard some guys talking about snuff films, which contain rape, torture and murder of women.  One of the men started to describe the one he had watched, saying that he didn’t care about the women because he didn’t know them.

Kevin confronted him and told him that it was disgusting, dehumanizing and awful.  When the man responded by saying that “it only happens far away overseas,” Kevin clarified some of the realities of the sex trade industry, pointing out that there had been rings busted in Toronto and Hamilton. The guys seemed embarrassed and didn’t know what to say.

As a woman, I can raise awareness all I want, but when men step up and say that exploitation, paid sex, and human trafficking are not  acceptable, that is when change really begins to happen. Someone needs to tell johns like this one that women are human beings with value and worth, and are not products to be sold and consumed.

Kevin, thank you for being willing to get uncomfortable by speaking up.  Men, I hope this serves as an inspiration for you to not stay silent when an opportunity presents itself.  I am so deeply grateful to those of you who are trying to live a life that does not exploit vulnerability, and I encourage you to keep at it, day by day!

Photo credit: Brooks Reynolds

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Preparame la Cena: Music Video on Human Trafficking

by Michelle Brock on December 2nd, 2011

This is a powerful song about modern day slavery and exploitation in its many forms.

The chorus make me want to cry…“preparame la cena que regreso pronto” - human trafficking victims telling their families to prepare dinner for them for when they come home.  This shows the deception that is involved in human trafficking, as most victims have no idea where they are actually going and do not realize that they can’t return until it is too late. Take this weekend to savour the relationships you have, and don’t forget about those who are trapped with no way home for dinner.

Michelle

 

 

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