Monday, October 31, 2011

The End, Or How I Survived a Month in The Dress

It's October 31. The end of the month.

First off, I want to thank everyone who followed me this month! Knowing I had so many supporters was a source of great encouragement. I also want to thank the girls that have been on this journey with me- Emily A, Emily Fish, and Sarah! I couldn't have done this without you guys.

Emily A, Emily Fish, Sarah, and me: all in our dresses
This month has been an interesting experience, to say the least. It occured to me last night that I should have counted the number of times someone asked me if I could wash the dress. It's probably be in the hundreds by now. For those still unsure- Yes, I could wash it. I hand washed it every night and then with the rest of my laundry once every week and a half. And fabreze- which is an amazing thing...

I thought this would be an easy project at the beginning. After all, I had worn the same uniform every day for two years at CSG. But, something about this was wayyy different. I think it was the idea that not everyone around me wore the same thing. I stood out because of my dress, the complete opposite of the way I blended in at CSG. I also don't have a very flexible wardrobe, so I ended up wearing the exact same thing every day, unlike the Emilys who found a way to mix it up every day.

It was also a lesson in patience and determination. I won't go too much into this, because I've posted about it before. But, needless to say, it was quite a learning experience. It's interesting because I can't wait for tomorrow when I'll get up and throw on jeans and a t-shirt, whereas Emily Fish is kind of sad it's the end of the month and wants to continue the project. We'll find out tomorrow if she does.

Regardless of how much I hated the dress, I do plan on doing this project again- most likely in the spring when it won't be as cold. That was probably the worst thing- the cold. Next time, I would really like to figure out a way to get more people involved. I had a link on this blog about how other people could help (by donating personal items to one of the shelters in Columbus or Toledo), but I didn't make a big deal about it. I think it would be even better, though, if people could get involved in another way. I'll have to think on how.

I hope that through this project I have impacted at least one person. My goal was to spread the word about the victims of human sex trafficking in Ohio, teaching that this problem is not isolated to third world countries. I hope I did that. Maybe even have sparked someone's passion for this fight.

The month may be over, but the fight has just begun. Since I began, hundreds of girls have been exploited around Ohio, some have escaped and sought help at one of the shelters around the state, others have just been kidnapped and place in the cycle.

The month might be over, my dress might be burned (ceremoniously, yay), but God still weeps for the children. I ask that you keep all the victims, the survivors, and those fighting to end this injustice in your prayers. Hold them close to your heart.

Thank you for following me in this journey, and I pray for your continued support.
God Bless!
~Hannah <3

And, a funny one!

Halloween Shenanigans

It is officially Halloween, October 31, the final day of my One Dress, One Month Project. To simply say I'm happy it's almost over would be an understatement. I'm thrillered (get it? "thriller" cause it's Halloween?? haha ;~)

Emily Fish, Addie, Kira, and I on Court Street

I met ABE LINCOLN in the lobby of my dorm!!

This past weekend was the world-famous Athens Halloween Block Party! I love going uptown and seeing everyone's costumes, then going and watching Halloween movies...Hocus Pocus for the finale! This year was particularly interesting because I had to somehow incorporate the dress into my costume. I shout-out for suggestions on facebook awarded me tons of ideas, none of which I used (no offense to those who suggested things. I do appreciate the effort). I decided to be a spidery wood nymph, mostly because I've become obsessed with drawing spider webs and really wanted to draw spider webs on my face. I tried to make some sweet wings out of sticks and fake cobwebs. They were really cool, until the sticks broke. Apparently, it has been too wet in Athens and the sticks I got from the back of my dorm were moldy. It was too late to figure something else out, so I painted my face, threw on my spider web tights, and called it a costume. It was cold, so I threw on my army jacket. I called it "Black Ops Widow." Black Ops because of the army jacket, and black widow because of the spider theme. Epic, right??

For your enjoyment, photos of my failed wings and my epic face paint...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bullheaded the name of Jesus

Well, we've reached Monday October 24. This means that I have exactly one week left in the dress. Yay!! We're in the home stretch now! I'm hopeful that it will be easy from here, because I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, yet something tells me it will be harder. I'm scared that I'll try to talk myself into quitting early, claiming I've already done it thus far and am close enough to November that it doesn't matter anymore.

I tend to be a very rational person. I can rationalize anything. Yet, within my rationality is a dualistic tendency allowing me to argue successfully for multiple conflicting things at the same time. I can successfully convince myself that it's close enough to November to just quit, but at the same time be convincing myself it's so close to the end that I can make it... Such completely different results, yet both being rationalized in my head right now.

Stubbornness is a curse and a gift. It can exasperate people when I am extremely bullheaded. However, in a situation such as finishing out the month, my stubbornness and determination to finish will see me through. Call it a gift or a curse, it was sheer bullheadedness that made me put the dress on every morning, even though I was silently cursing it under my breath.

I don't want to seem completely shallow by those statements. It makes me sound like I'm only doing this for me. I'm not, and I hope it doesn't come off that way. As I wrote a couple of posts ago, this has become a practice in patience and perseverance. Learning to embrace the sheer determination to do something hard because I know it's what's right and what I'm meant to do. 

Because this is what I'm meant to do in order to bring attention to a fraction of God's Children who are being used and abused. Just as I have this contradictory nature, so does the pattern of victimization and persecution of those involved in sex trafficking. When able to escape their captors/pimps, many girls have no where to go and no way to survive. They turn to prostitution as a way to make money. They use the only skill they know, and were raised to exploit, as a means of survival. These same girls are then arrested and charged with prostitution. It's like we are, as a society, choosing to punish the victims of a corrupt system instead of helping them. Doesn't that seem contradictory? Punishing the victims??

That's why it's so important that we have shelters like The Daughter's Place in Toledo and Rahab's Hideaway in Columbus. These shelters give girls an escape from the cycle of victimization and prostitution that has unfortunately become a norm. Girls are able to not only heal from their experiences, but are taught new skills and given self confidence so that they can lead a normal life. It's an attempt to break these double-standards, and giving thousands of girls a new lease on life.

Double-standards exist in every aspect of society. I believe that God has given me this gift/curse of rationality and stubbornness in order to better understand the sheer contradictory nature of the world around me. I will face the dichotomy within myself with determination, just as so many people persevere through pain and abuse in order to find a better life.

So, I guess you could say that my I am being bullheaded and stubborn in the name of Jesus- persevering to help bring an end to the double standard of society and their treatment of victims of human trafficking.

Fish and I modeling our dresses

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Homecoming Weekend and Stormy Weather

Rain, Rain, Go Away
Come Again Another Day
Preferably One Where I'm Not Wearing A Dress...

It's a new nursery rhyme, and a new mantra for my life. It's cold and rainy in Athens right now. My dress is thin, and not exactly waterproof. Luckily, I only have 12 days left in the project, so hopefully I'll be able to return to normal clothes before it gets too cold.

I know it's been a while since I've posted. This past weekend was Homecoming. I spent Friday night at the Union for the Open Doors Drag Show, Saturday morning marching in the parade, Saturday afternoon sitting at a table in Baker, Saturday evening watching movies with my friends, Sunday afternoon performing in an F-Word Show, and Sunday evening catching up on all my homework. Whew!  Then, Monday and week 7 snuck up on me and Tuesday I started to get sick. Now, it's Wednesday afternoon, and my head feels like one of those giant heads in the old cold medicine commercials, my nose is runny, and I have no voice. Lovely.

Having to wear the dress in the homecoming parade challenged me to find a way to turn the plain brown dress into something that showed my pride. So, I bought rainbow tights. Epic, right! Did you think I meant school pride...?

One side of my awesome sign in the Homecoming Parade

The other side of my sign, and my fabulous rainbow tights!
Thought: You know it's rained a lot when you have to wade to classes. Now, back into the storm...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Resentment, and God's Little Nudges

I'm finding this project to be more difficult than I thought it would be, but also so much more rewarding than I anticipated.  Getting up every morning and getting dressed, I find myself silently cursing the dress. I want to wear jeans or sweatpants, and not have to worry about a low cut neckline. I miss my t-shirts and hoodies. But, despite my silent angst towards to the dress, I am becoming more and more convinced everyday that this project is what I am meant to be doing right now.

I know I've talked about how wearing this dress is gaining more attention than protests or posters do because people are genuinely interested when they ask me about it. I'm able to reach people on a more personal level because they are open to hearing what I have to say, and are innately curious about why I would wear the "same freaking thing every day" (quoted from a friend in disbelief of my commitment). Probably 40-50 people have asked me about it, and I've been able to talk about it with them all. The normal reaction I get is 1) Can you wash it? and 2) I didn't know there was human sex trafficking in Ohio. The first question amuses me- and yes, I do wash it! The second question saddens me. We live in such a delusional state as Americans that we think the problems that plague other countries don't affect us, or that we are somehow immune to them. I don't want to start a debate about the mindset of Americans, I'm just telling you what I see to be true.

Spouting statistics, I watch as people become more and more uncomfortable. Starting with the worldwide statistics and stories of human trafficking, there is a look of wonder, possibly sadness, over the prospect of the worldwide victims. But, when I bring the conversation closer to home, Ohio in particular, the first thing I see is disbelief, then disgust. "That can't be happening in Ohio! Why wouldn't the government do something about it if it is?" A fair question. And one I cannot answer.

Yes, human sex trafficking occurs in Ohio. The FBI even cites Toledo as third on their watch list for sex trafficking recruitment. Government estimates state that there are over 3,000 sex slaves in Ohio alone! With this statement, cue a look of nausea on people's faces. Knowledge can be painful.

I am grateful that I am able to educate people about this horrible situation. My advocacy can hopeful lead more people to become impassioned about it and hopefully do something! I want nothing more than to plant the seeds that can lead people into the fight against trafficking.

Like I said before, I am continuing to realize more and more that I was meant to do this project. It is not only a project for a good cause, but a learning experience. God is using this to help teach me patience, perseverance, and what it means to be truly dedicated to something. I have always felt like I was a pretty patient person, able to do what needed to be done with little headache. But I am slowly losing my patience as I wait for October to end. It seems so easy to just take the dress off and return to normal, but that's not what I know I should do. I have to persevere, to push though everyday as I count down til November (19 days for anyone who's curious). This is what it means to be truly dedicated. To do what I know I need to, regardless of my resentment or negativity towards it. I have to remember what it's all about. Because it's not about me, but about the victims stuck in the cycle of abuse, and about honoring God through my attempts to free his beloved children from bondage. It's about my learning to put myself last and God first.

Every time I start to feel resentful towards the dress and the project, someone comes up and asks about it. I believe that this is God, urging me to continue. He sends someone in to remind me of my true purpose every time I start to give in. And I am forever thankful for that nudge.

So, keep asking. Keep fighting. And if you feel helpless and want to do something, check out the "how you can help" tab at the top of the blog.

"I can do all this through him who gives me strength." ~ Philippians 4:13 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

And the new hotbed of human trafficking is...


Those of you who thought Ohio was all about rock n' roll, amazing chili, and a seriously unhealthy football obsession may want to think again. A new report conducted by the Trafficking in Persons Study Commission found that 1800 people are trafficked in Ohio every year. This includes 800 immigrants who are exploited in commercial sex and factory work, as well as about 1000 American-born children who are forced into prostitution. Who would have thought that Ohio would be such a hotebed of human trafficking?
But why Ohio, whose largest city, Columbus, is dwarfed by neighboring Chicago? How can a place that sounds and appears so wholesome be responsible for forcing a thousand children into sexual slavery each year? The report cites weak laws on human trafficking, a growing demand for cheap labor, and Ohio's proximity to the Canadian border as the key reasons modern-day slavery thrives in the state. I'm going to take a metaphorical highlighter to that word "demand," because that is the key to the human trafficking crisis.
Like many other places in the U.S., Ohio has a growing immigrant population, including those who have migrated legally, illegally but voluntarily, and involuntarily. Undocumented migrants are at increased risk for trafficking and exploitation, and in Ohio about 800 of them were found exploited in factories, agriculture, constriction sites, and brothels. Often, migrants are trafficked by high organized criminal networks who transport the victims into and around the U.S. They are the criminals, but it's the demand for cheap goods and food and for commercial sex that create an industry for trafficked immigrant workers.
What may be even more shocking in this study, however, is the 1000 American children who were forced into commercial sex over the course of a single year. It is shocking because it means that enough men in Ohio were willing to pay to rape a child to make trafficking that many kids profitable and worth the risk. If each of those children had sex with 5 men per night, 6 nights a week, that over 150,000 sex acts per year. Potentially, that's 150,000 men who are buying sex with trafficked children in Ohio. The report cited laws and geography as primary causes of trafficking in Ohio, but I would ask them to take a long hard look at the demand for commercial sex with children.
Ohio first made it onto the map of major trafficking destinations when a child sex trafficking ring that moved victims from truck stop to truck stop along the rust belt was busted. Most of the activity was centered in Toledo, Ohio, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Not exactly the places I would have picked in my "International Criminal Trafficking Rings" poll. But traffickers go where they can make money by selling their victims, and those places were small cities in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
If all this bad news about Ohio has depressed you, check out this video, which celebrates some of the glories of Cleveland.

Article Courtesy of: