Viewing entries tagged
human trafficking

What is Dressember?

What is Dressember?

Brighid Quinn wearing her “Women are Resilient” t-shirt inspired by one of our Instagram followers! Thank you @raejus!  Photo by  Even Keel Imagery  -  Miriam Brummel .

Brighid Quinn wearing her “Women are Resilient” t-shirt inspired by one of our Instagram followers! Thank you @raejus!

Photo by Even Keel Imagery - Miriam Brummel.

There’s a common misconception that human trafficking happens “somewhere else” or “overseas.” According to Annalisa Enrile, clinical associate professor in the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work: “Human trafficking occurs in every country—even in first-world countries such as the United States.” In fact, in 2017, 26,557 calls were answered by the National Human Trafficking Hotline (U.S.). We’ve also learned that Los Angeles has been identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) as one of the thirteen high intensity hubs for Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Youth (CSECY).

It surely can be overwhelming to come across such alarming statistics. Blythe Hill, the founder of Dressember, is no stranger to that feeling when you became passionate about making waves and yet simultaneously reminded of your limitations. In an interview with Starfish Project, Hill remarked that she first learned about human trafficking as a teenager, and “For years, I felt a sense of personal urgency to do something but I also felt powerless. I’m not a cop, a lawyer, a social worker, or a psychologist….I felt helpless. Then, as Dressember grew, I felt compelled to use it as a way to engage in the fight.”

So, what is Dressember?

Dressember is a month-long campaign where people wear dresses or ties/bow ties every day in December as a way to raise awareness and money for human trafficking programs.

It started in 2009 as a personal style challenge with no cause or fundraising element to it. As it grew, and Hill saw people she didn’t even know personally who wanted to join in, she realized it was a good idea and started dreaming about using it as a way to bring attention to the issue of human trafficking. In 2013, Hill aligned Dressember with its first grant partner, International Justice Mission (IJM), and set what felt like an ambitious goal of $25,000. They hit that goal on day 3, and then proceeded to raise over $165,000. Since then, Dressember has extended it reach and now partners with 12 organizations, including IJM, A21, CAST Los Angeles, Love146, Saving Innocence, and Olive Crest, that are leading the charge in their respective areas of expertise to end modern-day slavery.

Since 2016, the team at Michelle Harwell Therapy have advocated for Dressember while putting their own creative spin on it. Women and girls historically have been the most vulnerable to human trafficking, and we have wanted to draw attention to this fact by challenging stale, one-dimensional notions and images of femininity. This year is no different except we’ve raised the bar for our fundraising goal — setting it to $6,719, which will fund a full rescue operation to bring victims safely into freedom and begin the process of recovery and restoration.

It’s incredible how far a small donation can go - contributions in the range between $20 and $50 can secure a survivor with vital services, such as a night in a shelter, a care package, or a therapy session.

Will you consider standing with us?


-Brighid Quinn, Marketing Intern at MHT


HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. We will be documenting our fierce fashion choices but our deepest intention is to empower and educate.

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising campaign page.

Women are NOT their Genitalia

Women are NOT their Genitalia

One is not born, but rather becomes, woman.
— Simone de Beauvoir

Filling in the statement “women are….” with “not their genitalia” was a move rather out of character. There’s something about it that’s a little risky, a little provocative, perhaps even a little exhibitionistic — qualities that aren’t completely foreign to me but not readily accessed and even less so in a public forum. I tend to take the road of making myself palatable — and more and more I’m realizing* that it isn’t only a matter of temperament but also something that has been shaped by cultural messages about how a woman should be (*with thanks to women like Adrienne Harris who write so eloquently on the complexity and fluidity of gender and its cultural situatedness). 

That all said, I must admit that the statement on my t-shirt didn’t originate from me. It was essentially stolen (with permission) from my friend M — who is one of the most badass women I’ve ever known. When I asked her to complete the sentence at hand, she responded without hesitation: “Not their genitalia.”

I felt a resounding YES. The phrase somehow distilled and articulated so many disparate thoughts into one phrase. It spoke to my desire to make space for transwomen in this conversation about what it means to be a woman — and to be sensitive to the fact that not every woman has a vagina. And as we here at MHT raise awareness about human trafficking this month, it feels important to note that transgender youth are particularly vulnerable to labor and sexual exploitation

And it brings to mind Simone de Beauvoir’s declaration that “One is not born, but rather becomes, woman.”

It spoke to the trauma of being a woman — and to something about the word pussy showing up in mainstream media during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

And it spoke to reclamations of womanhood that allowed for rage and joy. To all the pussy hats at women’s marches. To Pussy Riot. To Janelle Monáe’s music video for Pynk. To female sexuality as an embodied space for varied experience. 

We aren’t used to seeing bold celebrations of the mighty yoni. And for that matter…the same could be said about menstruation, menopause, or the “fourth trimester.” 

The sentiment is women are not ONLY their genitalia. We aren’t only pussies to be grabbed. 

We OWN our own genitalia. We OWN our own sexuality. We OWN how we define ourselves. 

My hope for the future is that we all begin to tell a more inclusive and expansive story about womanhood. And, I believe, that will require you and me to show up to the conversation with our whole selves, armed with creativity, openness toward fumbling around, and willingness to take risks. 


HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. We will be documenting our fierce fashion choices but our deepest intention is to empower and educate.

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising campaign page.


Taz MorganMA, is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, IMF #99714, working under the supervision of Gabrielle Taylor, PhD. She has trained in Depth-oriented psychotherapy and works with adolescents, adults, and couples. 

Women are Witness

Women are Witness

Witnessing is a powerful act to bring into the world. Whether it is vocal and public or even, as I see it, private and silent, witnessing to the experience of others is a way of shining a light on what has been unseen and calling to account those responsible.

Witnessing is a powerful act to bring into the world. Whether it is vocal and public or even, as I see it, private and silent, witnessing to the experience of others is a way of shining a light on what has been unseen and calling to account those responsible. When we as women witness each other’s experiences, we stand up to the violence and aggression that women and girls experience the world over. We honor the suffering that we see by holding it in mind with compassion and demanding justice for those who have been wronged.

I see witnessing as a role of sorts, one that we can step into whenever there is cause and one in which we can be certain that our individual mind, heart, and voice has meaning and significance. If we were to look down on the earth from above, imagine that everyone who witnesses to the abuses and misuses of power here was one tiny speck of light in a sea of dark. Tiny or not, you would see them. And even if each speck were unaware of the others around it, still, the more people witnessing to the wrongs of the world, the more light there would be.

For victims of trafficking, there is mostly no justice, mostly no recourse, mostly no rescue. The cruel economics of this particular chain of supply and demand make the problem seem intractable. Even so, I take refuge in the thought that no one can take away our witness. I am encouraged by all the voices around me this December raising awareness of this issue and calling for action. Will you join us? This month, wear a dress or a tie every day to bear witness.


HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. We will be documenting our fierce fashion choices but our deepest intention is to empower and educate.

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising campaign page.


Monica Green, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist, PSY 27391, specializing in depression, anxiety, trauma, relationship issues and psychological aspects of chronic health conditions.

Why We Dressember

Why We Dressember

This is a collaborative piece from MHT therapists Taz Morgan and Maria Elena Marquez. They attended the Dressember 2017 Kickoff Party on Thursday, November 30 at the Unique Space in Downtown LA. 


Last week we ventured to the Arts District to attend the Official Dressember Kickoff Party. We weren’t sure what to expect from the event but whatever fantasies we may have had were completely blown out of the water. It was such an impressive and inspiring night of style, generosity and community — all tenets of The Dressember Foundation

Maria Elena admiring some of the styles from the 2017 Dressember Collection. 

Maria Elena admiring some of the styles from the 2017 Dressember Collection. 

After making a beeline to the food truck, we took in all that the activity of the party - a photo booth, a gingerbread cookie decorating station, a craft table, and a display of The 2017 Dressember Dress Collection, designed by advocates and ethically made by Elegantees. Of note, Elegantees employs survivors of human trafficking in Nepal. 

An hour into the party, the emcees (two Dressember board members) took the stage and introduced Dressember founder Blythe Hill. Not only did Blythe speak about the issue of human trafficking and why she is committed to giving grants to non-profits that strive to put an end to violent oppression but she shared how her own experience of sexual trauma has impacted her life. The vulnerability with which she spoke about the burden of shame was palpable. Moreover, we resonated with Blythe's declaration that going to therapy had helped her regain a sense of resiliency and strength, which in turn, propelled her to make a more expansive mark on the world. Furthermore, she talked about a fire being ignited in her soul at the age of 19 to put an end to sex trafficking. Her passionate spirit has indeed fueled the Dressember movement - and in that moment, we both felt a resounding sense of urgency in our own bellies and turned to look at each other - silently acknowledging that we were experiencing something special with this kind of truth-telling. 

Blythe Hill, Founder and CEO of Dressember. 

Blythe Hill, Founder and CEO of Dressember. 

Next up on the stage were advocates from A21 and International Justice Mission (IJM), two major Dressember partner organizations. The A21 representative told a story about a trafficking survivor who had been a typical teenage girl in Bulgaria. One day this young woman went out on a mid-day coffee date with a young man. She got up to use the bathroom and while she was away from the table, he drugged her drink. The next thing she knew she was strapped to a bed in Greece. The advocate went on to highlight this woman's astounding recovery of hope and freedom. The very charismatic representative from IJM spoke about her work in rescuing children from exploitation in the Philippines. She, too, mentioned the importance of mental health services for survivors. Finally, she got everyone in the room to move to a dance that survivors from a rescue in Manila created. 

Towards the end of the night, the emcees presented guests with a challenge to raise enough money for two rescue missions. Witnessing people lining up to make a donations to the cause was heart-warming and just what we needed to ramp up even more enthusiasm about our team fundraising campaign this year.


The Dressember Foundation is an anti-trafficking nonprofit organization with an annual campaign in December where people take on the challenge of wearing either a dress or a tie every day of the month as a way to raise awareness and money for anti-trafficking work.

For more information, we recommend checking them on Instagram or Facebook in addition to visiting their official website


HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. 

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising page.


Dressember Party 01.jpg

Taz MorganMA, is a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern, IMF #99714, working under the supervision of Vanessa Spooner, PsyD. She has trained in Depth-oriented psychotherapy and works with adolescents, adults, and couples. 

Maria Elena Marquez, MA, is a bilingual Spanish-English Marriage and Family Therapist Intern, IMF #103470, working under the supervision of Michelle Harwell, PsyD, LMFT.  As an art therapist, Maria is passionate about helping clients unravel complex cultural beliefs and family pressures through the use of expressive art.

Women of Style

Women of Style

One of our major goals for the month of December, beyond raising funds to combat sexual exploitation and sex trafficking with the Dressember Foundation, was to find ways to empower women through storytelling. As we were beginning our planning for the Dressember month, I wanted to create a central project for the MHT team that embraced both the perfunctory nature and the profundity of dress and style, as well as tell stories about different kinds of women. I was inspired by a book lent to me by one of our therapist Taz Morgan, a women who oozes style. The book is Women in Clothesa collection of interviews and beautiful photography that seeks to understand embodied women and their relationship to clothes. This book reinforced to me that style is less about the particularities and organization of clothing and much more about the mind, movement and meaning of the woman inhabiting them. Our own Women of Style series is an attempt to get to know and share stories about the embodied women who inspire us.

Each of our therapists participated in a photoshoot in which they were asked to embody the style and presence of a woman that has influenced them and then tell us about it. We hope you enjoy this intimate and inspired series!


Here's how you can participate IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. 

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising page.


Dr. Michelle Harwell, PsyD, LMFT is an expert trainer, respected speaker, and licensed therapist in trauma and attachment. She is noted for her specialization in areas of development, attachment, trauma, and neuroscience, and her ability to communicate complex topics with clarity and humor. Michelle completed her PhD in Psychoanalysis from The Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis. She received her BA in English Literature from University of Oklahoma, MA in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, and MS in Marriage and Family Therapy from the Fuller Graduate School of Psychology.