Changing an Abused Environment| Dana  Novotny

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.

What does this have to do with sex trafficking, you ask?  Much like garment workers, victims of sex trafficking are exploited economically.  They are abused.  They work appalling hours in rotten conditions.  They are taken from loved ones and friends.  They are coerced.  And, like many in the fashion industry, their plight goes unnoticed.  They remain in the shadows of a $150 billion dollar a year industry—more than fashion, even!  And we don’t even notice. 

It’s a quiet industry, though.  It’s not always or often the storyline from “Taken.”  For me, my first Unchained Fashion Show exposed how slavery, in its varied forms, exists in our own hometowns, on our own street corners, in our homes and it made my insides churn.  The issue is real.  And it’s right under our noses.  How many victims’ paths have crossed with mine? 

The Unchained experience beautifully weaves together a story of the plight of young women, and others, that fall victim to trafficking and a story of hope that awareness to the issue can bring.  Beautiful fashion, created sustainably to highlight the victim’s story, combined with dance, music, spoken word and fact powerfully illustrate a victim’s journey through the horrors of coerced sex.  It’s provoking to say the least.   

The combination of elements really embeds the message in the audience.  Whether you are visual, auditory, a reader etc., the experience will remain with you.   It becomes personal.  It will leave a mark—at least it did for me.  You can no longer ignore the reality of human trafficking.  But you can choose.  You can choose to share the message.  You can choose to host a show.  You can choose to donate.  You choose to volunteer. How will you choose to help end this atrocity?

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