This past weekend, Jay and I screened our documentary in the city of Modesto, California. As we drove around town, I spotted what looked like a drive-thru coffee shop with an unusual sign – a silhouette of a woman in a bikini. At first I thought it was just a tacky logo, but all of a sudden I realized that the employees inside weren’t wearing regular uniforms. The girls were wearing nothing but skimpy bikinis.
Immediately I thought of the area of town we were in. Massage parlours and adult stores lined the street. I feared for the girls for when they got off their shifts at night – they’d be an easy target for an ogling customer who could easily wait around. I was also concerned what a job like this could do to their psyche. I know way too many stories of girls who started off as servers at Hooters or doing wet T-shirt contests at bars that ended up falling prey to a world of pimps, violence, and prostitution. Selling your body can start off innocently enough, and for many young women who are either desperate for money or desperate for love, getting extra tips or attention by wearing next to nothing can be an addiction that leads them way further than they had intended.
Less than 24 hours later, Jay and I stopped in Rocklin, California at a coffee shop called Origin Coffee & Tea. All their profits go to helping victims of human trafficking (you can read my interview with the founder here). I couldn’t help but compare the two coffee shops in my mind.
One exploits bodies for profit, the other uses profit to restore dignity.
One takes advantage of vulnerability, the other offers empowerment for the vulnerable.
One is a race to the bottom, the other is a pursuit of justice.
As we continued on our way with delicious drinks in hand, Jay and I were so grateful for places like Origin Coffee & Tea. Let’s make this the trend!