I was honored and blessed to watch my daughter Charlotte participate as a model. It wasn’t the first time one of my daughters helped bring this visually stunning clarion call against the scourge of human trafficking to life on the stage and runway. My youngest daughter, Margaret, was an Unchained Fashion Show model in 2015.
Somewhere in the world a rescue team is raiding a brothel and uncovering the blood-stained pajama bottoms of a five-year-old little girl. Somewhere in the world a woman is selling herself for sex because she feels she has no other option to support her family and that she is damaged goods from previous abuse. Somewhere in the world a little boy is being sold by his parents to a Buddhist monk for the night because they feel they cannot refuse. Somewhere in the world a young woman is being abducted and trafficked to a distant country to be raped and tortured thousands of times. These stories are not fabricated hyperbole; they are realistic anecdotes of the men, women, and children forced into sex slavery around the world daily.
Let’s be clear, I enjoy taxes and excel much more than the average (normal) human being. But not long into my first post-grad accounting job, I started asking myself this question: “at the end of the 8+ hour work day, what am I doing to truly impact the lives of others?”
So when I found out my firm encouraged/sponsored volunteer hours, I saw this as an opportunity to explore that answer. I could’ve chosen any cause, and it would have been well worth my time. For whatever reason, though, I could not stop thinking about UNCHAINED. I had really only heard about it a couple years ago during some time spent at my sister (and co-founder Felicia)’s church, but I decided I wanted to learn more.
My introduction to human trafficking awareness and prevention came in a roundabout way. Bear with me. An avid ‘greenie,’ I’m vigilant about preserving our planet and our friends in the animal kingdom. So I was appalled to learn how toxic the fashion industry is to our environment. Second only to the oil and gas industry, fast fashion is killing our planet and jeopardizing our health. But what is equally horrifying is the way garment workers are treated. Dreadful hours. Poor wages. Long months spent away from family and loved ones. Abuse. Rotten working conditions. Coercion. And those are just the garment workers. What about those harvesting the cotton for a t-shirt? Spinning fiber for yarn or thread? Hazy regulations and crooked supply chain management have allowed illegal work practices and labor trafficking to flourish, perpetuating a multi-billion dollar industry. And I’ve become passionate about transparency, workers’ rights and sustainable fashion.
If anyone tells you what brought me to the UNCHAINED board is my keen sense of fashion...then that person is probably lying to you. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about a good cardigan, but what really brought me to the UNCHAINED board is the same thing that I love about UNCHAINED: use of one's gifts or talents for passion-driven social justice.
The idea of UNCHAINED is so fascinating to me. Coming from outside of the art world, I think the idea of fighting human trafficking through a fashion show perplexed me until I saw an UNCHAINED show. The visually striking representation of the stages from captive to freedom and the powerful transition story of a human trafficking survivor taught me so much that it made me realize how important it is to tell the story. It is a story that is heartbreaking, that rattles us to our core, that is inspiring, but most importantly it is a true story. And the truth is that we must all use our gifts and talents to end human trafficking.
I’m writing to you today about manhood, as both a father and a new board member of UNCHAINED.
As you may know, there are so many passionate women out there who are fighting sex trafficking, and that’s wonderful. But in the seven years that my wife and I have volunteered in the anti-trafficking community, I have seen so few men involved in this issue.
That is such a shame, because this battle isn’t just about rescuing victims and supporting survivors of trafficking. That’s only half of it. We will never end modern slavery until we reduce the demand that’s driving it in the first place. While some women pay for sex, the fact is, most of that demand is coming from men.
Welcome to the UNCHAINED blog! We are excited to start sharing our journey with you further. Coming up we will be highlighting team and board members to give fun insight into UNCHAINED. We are passionate about awareness of Human Trafficking and here we can share further how we intend to encourage the process of awareness.