Day Twenty Nine: Lauren Farris (Edmonds, WA)
Rows of women in black stilettos line the outside of each bar.
“Come come! Massage here!”
One woman calls towards us as my friend and I pass by. Several other women with crossed arms barely glance up from their seats. Small children dart around and hold up knick-knacks to sell, glancing over their shoulders. In every direction, signs like “Ladyboy Bar” or “Foxy Lady” flash at me and grow brighter.
In the corner of my eye, a group of swaying men surround a young Thai girl. Laughing, one man slings his arm around the girl and jabs his buddy to his other side. She grimaces and crosses her arms tighter. “Come on, just a kiss sweetheart.” She makes a noise and tries to squirm out of his embrace. The group roars as the man shoves her to another man across from him.
This is a scene I witnessed in Thailand and is one of many scenes from human slavery all over the world. Almost two years ago, a small team and I from Youth With a Mission stayed in Thailand for three months where we worked with several groups, including Lighthouse in Action, which reach out to individuals in forced prostitution in the open bars. In the open bars, either poverty, family, or pimps are the traffickers. Once forced to work in the open bars, “bar moms” or “bar dads” pressure and brainwash bar workers into continued sex work. Even a few days before we arrived, one of the bar girls was shot during a night with a customer, and her friend had begun transitioning out of the bars to working at a cafe in partnership with Lighthouse in Action.
To say the least, those three months were pretty eye opening for me. However, my heart for this entry is about these individuals first and foremost. The ones who smooth down their faces and place on a different smile for certain customers. The ones who become shocked to hear “how are you?” instead of “how much are you?” – which is about the price of a bunch of grapes or a pack of beer.
Though this is not only about those in Thailand. Sometimes, it’s easy for me to think that human trafficking happens “out there.” Sure it’s a reality, but it’s far away from me…until I realize that human trafficking happens within my own city of Seattle and all over the United States and world; where millions of precious sons and daughters of God– from bar workers to even customers and pimps– remain unaware of how completely beloved and treasured they are.
Which is why Dressember is important. Though Dressember doesn’t magically cure human rights overnight (as amazing as that would be), that’s not necessarily the point. Dressember presses into the uncomfortable. Although wearing a dress every day might seem like a small thing, it is a combined step in facing a reality that many would rather not think about. It brings awareness, prayer, and fundraising support to people and organizations that carry on this long term work. Wonderfully, Dressember is the power of a voice in a dress spreading into a movement.
Because these individuals are worth more.
For more information on Lighthouse in Action, click this link: http://www.lighthouseinaction.org/ .
For a local organization in Seattle, check out REST: https://www.iwantrest.com/ .
If you’d like more in depth information on human trafficking, Nefarious is a great documentary: http://nefariousdocumentary.com/.
To donate to our team page to support IJM and A21, two organizations fighting against slavery and injustice everyday, please click here.