This time last year I remember seeing social media post after post of people displaying red X’s on their hands. I thought maybe it was an ad for a new television show or promoting a fashion campaign of some sort. It wasn’t until I ran into a group of women while shopping that I noticed that they had a red X’s on their hands as well. Now I was intrigued. Had the zombie apocalypse started already? Were we being branded for some weird sci-fi testing situation? What was going on here?
Intrigued, I asked them what was going on and that’s when I first learned about the #EndItMovement. I briefly mentioned this in my last post but now we’re going to discuss the topic in further detail because today, February 23rd 2017 is the day that you may also see a red X on other people’s hands and hopefully by the end of this post…yours.
So what’s this all about? The #EndItMovement is a coalition that started in 2013 to “Shine a light on Slavery.” People throw the term “slave” around loosely to describe working hard at a crappy job or for a boss they don’t like but this is no simple metaphor. An estimated 20 million people worldwide are literally trapped, forced to work without pay, unable to walk away and subjected to violence or the threat of violence by another person. Controlled, owned and isolated, yet hidden in plain sight. This is reality for those trapped in slavery today. Slavery is illegal in every single country in the world. Yet it still exists.
Sex trafficking in particular, usually spikes during the weeks surrounding the Superbowl and other large major events that draw lots of attention and visitors to host cities (See my last post for other shocking statistics).
Without seeing those red X’s I may have never known that information or taken the steps to find out so they’re definitely working! In fact, those X’s have been shared over 500 million times on social media since they started and have reached top athletes like Superbowl MVP Peyton Manning and celebrities like Ashton Kutcher who co-founded Thorn, an Anti-Human Trafficking Software that has helped find over 6000 victims, including 2000 children.
Sure, I’ve watched a few specials on cable about these issues but it’s still rather easy to disconnect from the reality and far reaching effects of this global issue unless you or someone you know has been personally affected. I mean, it’s easy to just turn off the television and go back to your daily lives. You can ignore the internet but imagine how you’d feel if your sons, daughters, sisters or brothers were personally affected? I’ve gone on a rage filled vendetta when someone took my lunch out of the office refrigerator a few months ago so I could only imagine how I’d react if someone ever laid a hand on my niece or nephews.
That’s the horrific reality that my friend Angie in Toronto personally experienced a few years ago but instead of me telling you about it, here’s the story in her own words:
“This stuff does not only happen in the movies. My phone rang in the middle of the night, I normally wouldn’t answer but something told me to pick up the phone. On the other end was my estranged sister who I hadn’t spoken to in a few years frantically yelling ‘they got her’!
Because she’s known to be a ‘drama queen’ I didn’t realize the severity of the call until I finally got her to calm down and she continued to tell me that a man lured my 16 year- old niece into his world of forcible prostitution and that she already had contacted the police but they weren’t doing much to find her so she needed my help.
We started to do our own investigations by tracking them down on social media and finding ads on classified listings. These listings advertised ‘where to go for a good time’ and included pictures of two young girls from the back with wigs on. We later realized that these low lives shaved their heads bald!
We tried to threaten the guys with the police and when that didn’t help we tried to use scare tactics to persuade them into letting her go. We made countless phone calls and also tried randomly showing up at these hotels but by the time we arrived each time they had moved to the next location. My family and I felt hopeless due to the lack of help we were receiving and we were desperately putting our own lives at risk to find her.
A few long weeks later my niece was seen with the other girl from those disturbing classified ads entering a house of a mutual friend of theirs. So taking full advantage of them being alone we took matters into our own hands and went to rescue my niece.
When we got to her she had a look of confusion and fear. Seeing her made my heart sink into my chest. I was relived, happy and mad all at the same time. Her face had a deep cut that had not been sewn up and she had a black eye. By looking at her you could tell she hadn’t slept in days.
We brought her to the hospital and called the police. Even now, 4 years later, the police have not found all that were involved. I’m not saying that the system doesn’t work, however sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands because if we aren’t going to protect our children who will? Like I said in the beginning this doesn’t only happen in the movies so please keep your daughters close.” – Angie from Toronto
Wow, I sincerely thank Angie for sharing her traumatic story with us. As for her question of who will help, one group also based out of Toronto has taken on that challenge. That group is SEXTRADE101 and they’re a survivor lead activism organization that educates the public about the real truths surrounding Prostitution and Trafficking. They assist in policy and legislation change while also providing support to those who are caught up in the cycle of prostitution with exiting mentorship and advocacy.
I had the pleasure of meeting the group’s Co-Founders Natasha Falle and Bridget Perrier at an annual Caribbean festival held in Toronto (Caribana – essentially Toronto’s Mardi Gras…but bigger. We’ll talk about this festival in a later post) several years ago.
Natasha was lured into the sex trade industry when she was 15, and trafficked for 10 years across Canada before managing to escape the clutches of her pimp, who was also her husband. Since then, she has graduated from both college and university with honors while also helping hundreds of others to break free from the destructive life of prostitution.
Bridget also shares a similar background. When she was 8 years old she was sexually abused by a family friend. The pain that she felt burdened her, and by 12 years old Bridget had been lured and debased into prostitution. She was bought and sold in brothels and streets all over Canada. Bridget found healing within Toronto’s First Nations community, eventually went back to school and got into George Brown college, where she graduated from The Community Worker Program. Bridget also was a recipient of the YWCA Woman of Distinction Turning Point award in 2006.
These are the exact types of people and organizations that are helping to spread awareness as a part of this global coalition. Natasha and Bridget’s stories had happy and inspirational endings, but millions of people are still living through this nightmare. And no, it’s not just sex trade, no it’s not just women and no it’s not just Canada. Slavery exists in 167 countries and nearly 87% of all nations! Just this past New Year’s Eve a close friend of mine was drugged in the Netherlands. Another friend was abducted in Hawaii, one of the most beautiful vacation destinations in the world so as I said before, this can literally happen to anyone and anywhere.
I’m sure Natasha and Bridget’s bios were somewhat uncomfortable for many of you to read but I can assure you that it was even worse for them to actually live through! That’s the harsh reality that many others are living right this minute though. And that’s why the #EndItMovement is so important. It’s amazing how something as simple as a little red X can make such a huge difference but it really can. If you’ve checked out my other posts you know I would normally be talking about pizza and working out by now but today we’re giving a voice to the voiceless and letting them know that they’re not alone in their fight.
If you’d like to help #Endit I encourage you to grab your red marker, red tape, red nail polish or whatever your preference is and post that selfie! Even if you’re not on social media, just having others ask you about the mark could inspire them to help #Endit too.
For more information about the End it Movement, check out https://enditmovement.com
For more information about SexTrade101 check out http://www.sextrade101.com/
Although over 55% of victims are women, as mentioned slavery can affect anyone. And in many cases it’s simply a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. So how can you protect yourself?
Your first step is to avoid the situation entirely if possible. It’s a strange world that we live in so always be mindful of your surroundings, especially at night! If you’re walking alone in an unfamiliar location, that may not be the best time to update your Facebook status so stay alert! Also make sure to always lock car doors, watch your drinks if you’re at a club and don’t meet that random person from the internet unless it’s in public.
If you are walking alone for some reason, walk confidently. The worst thing that you can do is make yourself a target by walking aimlessly and timid. So even if you don’t remember where your car is, confidently power walk that parking lot like a champ until you find it! And speaking of cars, don’t push that unlock button on the remote until you’re about to get in. Sure it’s fun to hear that chirp chirp and watch the lights flash but if you hear and see it, so does a potential attacker…and now he knows exactly where you’re headed and that your car is now unlocked.
I’m not trying to make you paranoid, I’m trying to make you prepared. So be smart, be safe and trust your instincts. If it feels as though someone is following you a bit too closely or a situation just feels off and it’s causing the hairs on the back of your neck to stand up, that may be your gut trying to tell you something. It’s better to play it safe and remove yourself from the situation as soon as possible.
But what if you can’t? What if that guy who was following you too closely really does try to attack you? That’s when knowing a few simple and effective self-defense movements will be critical. Please note that by self-defense your goal is not to stay and try and fight this person like you’re Bruce Lee, Jason Statham or Amanda Nunes. So in addition to these moves, use your voice to attract help and focus on getting to safety.
With that said, the following video is going to teach you several moves that you can use to help protect yourself from a potential attacker. For this video, I’ve enlisted the help of my friends, Pro MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) Competitors DayTroy “The Spartan” Lyons-Lee and Chelsea Brooks (also shoutout to Kyle Dickerson for running the cameras and to Eric WIlliams owner of UFC Perimeter for letting us use the facility for this video shoot!). Before we get started, here’s a brief bio for each of them.
Troy – American Top Team Atlanta, UFC Gym Perimeter, Combat Quest Featherweight Champion, IKF World Champion. Upcoming fight on March 24 at the Electric Cowboy in Kennesaw, GA. For more information on Troy, follow him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/lastkingofsparta/
Chelsea – American Top Team Atlanta, Muay Thai TBA National Champion, Kickboxing IKF World Champion, BJJ Blue Belt and Sanctioned boxing competitor. AS/BA Criminal Investigations and Criminal Justice. For more information on Chelsea, follow her on Instagram @chelseamichellebrooks
Although they’re professional fighters, literally anyone can learn to use these moves as they rely primarily on leverage. So watch carefully and please share today’s post with everyone you know as this information could literally help save someone’s life.
If you live near Dunwoody, GA and would like to take a self-defense class or train with Troy and Chelsea at UFC Gym Perimeter, call 404-445-8324 and mention this blog post!
Remember, you’re not going to be an expert after one viewing so practice and share this with your friends and family. We may also do a longer form of this video in the future for those who are interested so post your comments below!
Calling All Angels – Train
Common ft John Legend – Glory (this was from the Selma soundtrack – great movie if you haven’t seen it yet)
You are Not Alone – Michael Jackson (seriously, what’s the MJ reference tracker up to now?)
I Believe in the Power of Love – Deee-Lite (this group was waaay ahead of their time!)
Where is the Love – Black Eyed Peas ft. Justin Timberlake (Ahh, I bet you forgot about JT being on this one didn’t you?)
Halo – Beyonce (What did you think of her performance at the Grammy’s?)
Imagine – John Lennon (Classic)
Have another track that fits today’s theme? Tell us about it in the comments below!
Well, that about does it for another edition of #DoubleFML. I know today’s post had a slightly different feel to it but hey, I’m diverse like that eh (that “eh” was for the Canadians lol thanks again Angie, Bridget and Natasha)? I can’t always be a goofball. Besides, this cause is no laughing matter. Oh yeah and how awesome was that video?! Wow! Chelsea and Troy are both world class athletes so I absolutely encourage you to watch that video and practice as many times as it takes to get those moves down. And consider taking some additional self-defense training in your hometown. Hopefully you never actually encounter any of those situations but knowing that you’ll be prepared if something ever does happen is comforting. As always, like, comment and definitely share this post to help spread the word! Also follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and more by clicking those social media buttons on the side panel. Okay I’ll be back with another post on Monday but in the meantime, grab that red marker and join the movement. Until next time my friends…
‘Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak: courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen…’