Dressing for Dressember

by Leah Larsen

'Tis the season for standing against human trafficking (photo courtesy of Dressember Foundation).

On December 1, many University of Northwestern–St. Paul students answered the call to participate in the Dressember movement. This movement challenges participants to wear a dress or a tie on each of December’s 31 days. Sponsored by the Dressember organization, it has the purpose of advocating for the end of human trafficking and modern-day slavery. In addition to raising awareness, this organization raises funds to free victims of trafficking, a tragedy that occurs globally, nationally and locally. Since 2013, Dressember has raised over 10 million dollars to combat human trafficking. There have been numerous rescue missions, which involve prevention, intervention and aftercare for the victims.

Sophomore Bethany Kinney and junior Alyssa DeWilde are two individuals who are extremely passionate about spreading awareness for this movement. This month marks Kinney’s sixth year and DeWilde’s third year of taking part in Dressember. They have both been personally impacted by the movement and faithfully promote it. This opportunity “causes me to remember that the world does not revolve around me,” Kinney commented. “Reflecting on the tragedy of trafficking helps me to see the depravity of mankind and the utter sinful nature of the world; it’s not a light subject, but we can stand in awe of God’s redemptive plan at the same time.”

Both of them find creative ways to wear a dress every day, a task that may seem daunting for many. Kinney reflected on how she “focused on wearing one every couple of days” when she first began participating. She also mentioned the founder of the movement, saying, “The founder wears the same dress every day, wearing it in a ton of different ways, to combat questions such as ‘What if I don’t have enough dresses for all 31 days?’” Along similar lines, DeWilde commented, “I choose to wear the dresses I have as a way to raise awareness of human trafficking, and I choose to invest in fair trade products going forward.”

Dressember continues to grow every year. The organization set their new record for funds raised last year: $2.5 million. This year, almost $600,000 was raised during the first two days of December, and the numbers are continually increasing.

However, unfortunately, human trafficking continues to grow as well. It is the fastest-growing criminal industry, generating as much as $150 billion a year, even before taking COVID-19’s impact into account, which has led to increased cyber exploitation. DeWilde commented on some disturbing statistics, saying, “The number of crisis trafficking situations increased more than 40% at the onset of COVID-19. Trafficking due to pornography and remote interactive sex acts increased 20%.” Now more than ever, awareness is crucial, and funds are needed to combat this. For those who would like to learn more or donate, go to https://dressember2020.funraise.org/team/unwsp-gals

“While I don’t think that it will end in my lifetime,” Kinney said, “I fight for the end of human trafficking. We seek justice within the knowledge and lens that this will get worse, and we walk with the hope and truth that the gospel is truly the need of every heart, especially in light of the Christmas season.”

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