Things You Can Do To Stop Human Trafficking

Each day of December, I wore a dress to raise awareness and money to help stop human trafficking, as part of the Dressember campaign. Human trafficking as defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is “ the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” An estimated 40 million people are in modern slavery! Just like climate change, this is a daunting challenge to tackle. We can feel helpless to make any difference in this cause. But there are some concrete actions we can take to stop human trafficking. In my second year participating in Dressember, I thought I’d share some of my tips for how you can help stop human trafficking and the insights I’ve gleaned from participating. If you have any suggestion, please join the conversation.

Ways you can stop human trafficking:

1. Know the signs.

Some of the signs of human trafficking: •Poor living conditions •Multiple people in cramped space •Inability to speak to individual alone •Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed •Employer is holding identity documents •Signs of physical abuse •Submissive or fearful •May show affection toward their abuser (Stockholm Syndrome)•Unpaid or paid very little •Under 18 and in prostitution or in porn

Common places for traffickers to place victims are massage parlors and hotels. Note that if you are getting a service or a product for a very cheap price think through the economics and make sure it isn’t a human trafficking operation.

2. Pay attention.

In this modern world, we are often absorbed in our phones, but paying attention will allow us to focus on whether something feels odd in a place. If you pay attention and you know the signs of human trafficking, you’ll likely be able to identify if human trafficking is happening. People are counting on you; Take at least 2 minutes in whatever place you are to fully be there.

3. If you notice any of the signs, you can call to report it or drop an tip online; it’s all confidential.

Call 1–888–373–7888 or online at to report a tip and have the situation investigated.

4. Buy used clothing or buy clothing from ethical brands.

Buying used clothes or investing in quality clothing from ethical brands saves our environment, our money, and our friends making the clothes. Others have documented this problem way better than I ever will, so check out the documentary True Cost or read this article in the Atlantic about Patagonia’s efforts to eliminate human trafficking in their supply chain.

On buying used clothing, there are great stores like Buffalo Exchange that are picky about what used clothing they put in their stores. If you’re looking for something specific and know your exact size, online marketplaces like eBay, Poshmark, and Thredup are great places to buy used clothing. Some people suggest picking 12–36 items to mix and match and wear the entire season. This strategy is coined the capsule wardrobe and helps limit your clothing shopping as well as your everyday decision of what to wear. I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s definitely on my list.

When you do need new clothes, which many us inevitably do, check whether the brands you buy have transparent practices and support fair labor in the countries they operate. If they don’t, send them an email that you, their customer, care about fair labor practices in all of their sourcing. Vote to stop human slavery and unfair labor practices with your wallet. You have more power than you might think.

5. Learn where your food is coming from.

Again, be a conscious consumer.

One example that I realized in my life I have supported human trafficking unknowingly is eating shrimp. Shrimp are one of my favorite party snacks. However the Southeast Asian shrimp industry which supplies much of the US with its shrimp is known for human trafficking. The laborers work up to 20 hour days peeling shrimp and if they attempt to escape they are under the threat of violence or sexual assault. One way you can prevent this is to stop buying food that doesn’t say where it comes from. If you notice food or products coming from areas that are known for trafficking, stop buying it.

While I’m hopeful that blockchain technology might make food sourcing more transparent, I’m not certain it will help us learn who picked our food and whether they were paid. In the US we have many instances of human trafficking in food production. You can write to your local supermarkets and ask them to address human trafficking in their sourcing .The only way to be 100% certain your food consumption is human trafficking free is to buy your produce from a local farm that you know treats their workers right. Eating local produce is getting easier, there are great produce box options that can be delivered to your door. In the Bay Area, I like Full Belly Farm and Imperfect Produce. See Michael Pollen and many others on why you should eat local food.

5. Don’t watch [sketchy] porn.

Porn creates demand for sex trafficking. Just the numbers watching porn let traffickers know there is a market and money to be made. Psychologically when humans consume porn “they are experiencing bought sex.” Overtime watching porn can desensitize people and lead them to buy sex. The women selling sex are often being coerced into it by traffickers. While some places in the world have legalized prostitution, many do not and if caught the women get punished, not the purchasers or the traffickers.

Children are forced into sex trafficking or cyber sex trafficking, where they are sexually abused on camera.

As humans, we are sexual beings and we have a right to express that sexuality. I’m not saying all porn is bad, but because of its black market nature much of porn and prostitution is shady and leads to exploitation. I’m aware there are porn sites trying to make more ethical and feminist porn. If you know of any please let me know and I’ll write them here.

We don’t know the estimates on how much watching porn affects sex trafficking, but we do know there is a strong link.

Lesson from an economist: without demand there will be no supply. Stop giving sex traffickers a market! Let’s make sure there is no demand and stop watching sketchy porn, so sex traffickers have to stop supplying.

6. Discover your slavery footprint.

You can take a short quiz at to see how many slaves worked for you in order for you to live your current life. I have 29 slaves working for me, unfortunately that is 29 too many.

In 2018, I’ve made some resolutions that can lower that number.

1. I will write to Apple. It would be hard for me to survive without my macbook, which has definitely been touched by a human slave. Thus I’ll will write to Apple to signal that ethical sourcing is important to their customers.

2. I’ll continue to donate and raise awareness through Dressember in 2018.

3. I’ll renew my produce box subscription and eat more local foods.

4. I’ll buy less than 5 pieces of new clothing that will last for many years.

All these little things have the intention of stopping human trafficking.

I’d love to talk about other ways, we can all help stop human trafficking. Please reach out.

Reflections on Dressember 2017

Finally, here are my reflections on Dressember 2017.

We may never know the full impact of our efforts. My Dressember campaign inspired a former student in an Applied Impact Analysis course I TA-ed for, Sabhanaz, to wear a saree everyday of December to raise money for rockstar organizations in Bangladesh such as @bracworld that are supporting the Rohingya Refugee Crisis. Bangladesh has seen the arrival of over half a million Rohingya refugees. Refugees are likely targets for human trafficking. I was delighted to see that Sareember became a very successful fundraising campaign for Sabhanaz!

Our social media reach is far and powerful. Someone I have never met donated to my campaign because someone else shared it. I don’t know how many impressions my posts had, but I do know hundreds of people saw my posts.

Support and encouragement keeps us going. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to do Dressember again, but I had people tell me that last year they loved seeing my posts. Every time I would see one of my best friends from college, she would mention how much she loved Dressember 2016. She also reads every word of my posts and as you can tell I’m a little verbose, so I definitely appreciate it. Whenever someone told me they loved the campaign, it helped me keep going. Never forget that a kind comment can help someone take steps forward. Thank you all!

Explore and you’ll learn some things. I live in San Francisco and I’m finishing my PhD, so my daily uniform is jeans, converse, and a sweater. I wear a dress about twice every month. Wearing a dress everyday allowed me to explore my style a bit. Last year I discovered I love layering sweaters and shirts over my summer dresses. This year I explored wearing navy, black, and brown all at once. Some people think that this color combination is a fashion no-no; I disagree. This year I wore most of the same dresses as last year and I wore many of the dresses twice. Next year, I want to experiment in new ways such as having a dress swap or wearing the same one all month.

Teamwork. I have a great team of 2 other California ladies, Alex and Kristi. The reason I participated in Dressember is Kristi, who was paired with me for an accountability challenge and I can thank for my daily meditation habit, asked me if I’d like to join. Alex, the leader of the team, has been participating in Dressember for 5 years and offered great advice for fundraising. While both Kristi and Alex live in LA, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting both of them in real life. This year our team raised over $3,000! My team inspired me daily and helped me with a scarf giveaway for donations. With a great team by my side, I was able to stomach taking and posting a photo of myself daily.

Together we can help the world. Dressember is a group of thousands of people dressing up in December to end slavery. In 2017, the goal was to raise $2 million and as of right now we’ve raised $1.9 million just this year!

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
-Margret Mead [although the primary source has never been found]

Thank you!

Overall, I raised $1,175.50 from 30 different donors. Thank you to everyone who donated!

My heart is unbelievably full.

Thank you all for the support and encouragement as you can see above I couldn’t have done it without you!

I dream of a world where all humans are free.



Note: If you’re interested in donating, you can still donate to my campaign until the end of January 2018 or you can donate to IJM or A21 at any time. All are great organizations and the world will greatly benefit from your kind donation.

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