Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Dressember Days 2 + 3: Style and a Story

It's toward the end of day three and already Dressember participants have raised a combined $100,000 for International Justice Mission (per this post)! It's so great to be apart of something like this and I'm so thankful for those who have decided to join me!

Yesterday, this story was sent out to participants to help us keep our focus on what this initiative is really about. I wanted to share it with you all as well so you can know more specifics on the work that IJM is doing.

Mien's Story

Mien grew up in Svay Pak, a marginalized community in Cambodia that was once notorious for offering young girls for sex. Mien’s family had emigrated from Vietnam, and they lived in extreme poverty. Her father spent what little money they earned on alcohol, and her mother felt helpless to stop his abuses.

Like many other girls growing up in the poor community, Mien was sold to a brothel one block from her own home when she was just 14 years old.

Night after night, Mien was sold to sex tourists and men who came to Svay Pak because they knew they could find young girls. The nightmare became a routine. Although she was minutes from her childhood home, Mien was trapped.

In 2003, IJM assisted the Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Unit of the Cambodian National Police with its first-ever rescue operation. 37 girls were rescued from sex slavery – the youngest was 5 years old. But Mien hid, afraid of the police – who were actually there to find her – because the brothel owners had told her lies, claiming that she would be the one who was arrested, not them.

In the following months, Mien’s family migrated north. Mien was again sold to be exploited in brothels in Siem Reap near the Angkor Wat temples, a popular tourist destination. Mien was sold night after night to men who paid to rape her – and she became her family’s only source of income.

Years later, Mien would describe how she felt crushed by the violent abuse, but also by the weighty responsibility of becoming her family’s sole breadwinner through the exploitation in the brothel. She said: “I despair – my life does not have meaning…I feel like I don’t want to do this anymore, but what else can I do? I have no skills and my family depends on the money I send to them every month.”

But this would not be Mien’s reality forever. IJM investigators started to gather evidence in the very same brothel where Mien was being exploited. The brothel was disguised as a massage parlor, but IJM soon documented evidence to reveal girls had been trafficked there to be sold for sex.

In 2007, IJM worked with an anti-trafficking unit of the police in Siem Reap to rescue women and girls who had been trafficked to a brothel – including Mien and seven other girls, most of whom were minors. Mien was taken to a short-term aftercare shelter, where she received crisis care and started a new life of freedom.

IJM assisted the prosecutor to develop a strong legal case against the pimps and traffickers. At the end of the trial, justice was delivered: five perpetrators were convicted.

Justice is part of a trafficking survivor’s journey of restoration, but much of their healing comes from the loving relationships they develop from counseling and skills-training or education they receive in long-term aftercare shelters and the relationship they develop with their IJM social worker.

In Cambodia, there is a proverb that says: Men are like gold and women are like cloth. The meaning is that men can “dirty” themselves through sexual promiscuity, then wash themselves off to shine like gold again. In contrast, a woman is believed to become “stained” forever, like a white cloth, tainted and worthless. That strong stigma, often leading to a feeling of worthlessness or loss of hope, is one of the greatest challenges for IJM aftercare teams.

After a couple of months at a short-term, transitional aftercare shelter, Mien moved to an aftercare home where she could put down roots. The home is located in the same community where Mien had grown up. But the home has transformed the neighborhood – in fact, the very same brothel where Mien was first sold was bought by the aftercare home and turned into a community center for youth.

Mien remembers what it was like to drive back into her old neighborhood: “For my first time at the community center, when the car stops, I feel so scared to get out. But when I do get out it is good. Everything has changed.”

Mien began to thrive. She became a confident young woman, a mentor for others. She started to volunteer at the community youth center, reaching out to kids in the area – the very same neighborhood she had grown up in, and the place where she was first exploited.

Today, Mien is married and lives with her husband; they are saving money in hopes of owning their own home someday. She sews beautiful silk pillow covers and other textiles, including uniforms for another micro-enterprise businesses. As Mien said, “Everything has changed.”

Dressember Day Two + Three

For day two, I went for a warm, rustic look with a Lauren Conrad sweater dress. I scored it on Black Friday and waited until Tuesday to wear it. :) Underneath I layered a simple cami and some ponte leggings from Forever 21. I paired the dress with a wool scarf from Loft, knee-high socks and boots. Needless to say, I was nice and toasty!

Today I styled a fun sweater over a simple black Loft dress (it's not a skirt, I promise!) to create a different look. I paired it with some cable knit tights from Old Navy and a pair of black booties.

Once again I assembled a Polyvore board of my looks for the past two days with either the pieces I'm wearing or a similar substitute if you want to shop them!

Dressember Styles: Day Two + Three

1 comment:

Christine Tj said...

OH YAY!!! I finally found another blogger who is doing DRESSember!!! I looked for the last 40 minutes, and all the images from google are old. Okiedokie. I have added you to my DRESSember page. Please let me know if you are okay with this. :) I look forward to connecting with you! Do you have a FB page? I am following you on GFC and Twitter.

I look forward to your visit! (LMK if you know any other bloggers who are doing this campaign.)

Happy Advent,

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