Blythe Hill, founder of the anti-human trafficking organization Dressember, challenged herself to wear a dress every day in December of 2009. What started as a personal goal would later become a global anti-human trafficking movement.
“One is greater than 1,000,” Hill said. “I vividly remember writing that on my bathroom mirror. As long as I can help one person, I don’t care what a thousand people think of me.”
Hill joined Boston College’s Rallying Efforts Against Contemporary Human Trafficking club for a presentation and discussion on combatting human trafficking on Thursday, Nov. 11. She hoped to inspire BC students to get involved in the movement and her December challenge.
“Getting involved is simple,” Hill said. “By vowing to wear a dress or tie for 30 days you can gather sponsors who will donate to the cause. It’s also just a really fun and silly challenge to do with friends. I think it’s definitely something all of you should consider doing next month.”
According to its website, the Dressember challenge is more than just an awareness campaign, it’s a “social movement rooted in the belief that all people deserve to be free.” Participants create a campaign page to fundraise while they complete the challenge, and Dressember distributes the funds to organizations it partners with to combat human trafficking.
Before starting Dressember, Hill said she felt a sense of urgency to help with human trafficking, but believed she was unqualified. Hill said she did not fit the conventional pathways of involvement, like criminal justice or law enforcement.
“Those career paths didn’t feel honest to who I was,” Hill said. “But after doing my silly Dressember challenge the first year, I thought maybe this could be something more. Could I add a layer of heart to this quirky challenge?”
Since starting Dressember, the organization has experienced considerable growth and garnered public attention, Hill said.
“I’m shocked at the reach the organization has had,” Hill said. “By 2019, Dressember raised $10 million and partnered with 15 incredible organizations.”
It’s crucial to recognize that certain groups of people are affected by human trafficking at disproportionately high rates, according to Hill.
“Human trafficking affects 45 million people globally,” Hill said. “70 percent of victims are women and 25 percent are children. Black people and BIPOC are also affected at higher rates and sadly children in foster care are more likely to be exposed to trafficking. We need to recognize that this is a gender issue. This is a race issue. This is a class issue”
Hill recounted one trip to Guatemala City with the International Justice Mission (IMG)—a partner of Dressember—as being particularly impactful.
“At first I was overwhelmed with heartache,” Hill said. “It’s one thing to hear these stories on the news, but it’s different when you are in the presence of these children. Then I stopped and realized that this room is not filled with despair. It’s paradoxically filled with joy and pride. No one has to be defined by the worst thing that happened to them. The wholeness and recovery is beautiful. So that’s what I choose to focus on, the hope.”
Hill recalled attending one of IMG’s hero ceremonies, where the organization recognizes and empowers children who have recently testified in court against their abusers.
“I realized this was a celebration of doing something hard and brave,” Hill said. “The justice system said to these children, ‘What happened to you was wrong and you are our hero.’ I know I’m here today to talk about a very dark subject. However, we can’t sit in that space for too long. We have to focus on the light.”
Featured Image Courtesy of Sofia Laboy / For the Heights