Every muscle in body hurts.
Okay - maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it sure feels like it. I haven’t been to my normal Zumba workout class in more than two weeks, and then Sunday I decided my lazy body should participate in a Zumbathon.
For those who don’t know, Zumba is a dance aerobics class, set to all kinds of music ranging from salsa, to hip-hop, to the latest top 40 hit. It’s normally 50 minutes of high paced cardio. Sunday, it was 90 minutes on a hard gym floor.
But it was worth it.
The workout did more than kick my butt back into my aerobic routine...it raised nearly $10,000 for girls with far worse horror stories than my own. Girls whose childhoods are cut short, their innocence stolen, and their value based on how much someone is willing to pay for them. Girls who are bought and sold right here in sunny San Diego for the purpose of being used and exploited in today’s modern sex trade.
In my eyes, prostitution in any form, forced or not, is the ugliest version of sexism and objectification of women that exists. It says...Let me use what’s most dear to you for a price less than I'd pay for a bag of dog food.
My Zumba instructor, Nicole has been a friend for years. Her husband battles sex trafficking on the front lines. That’s why she decided to host a Zumbathon to raise money for STARS.
STARS stands for Surviving Together, Achieving and Reaching for Success. It’s a program within San Diego Youth Services for girls between the ages of 12-17 who’ve been involved with commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking. Among a number of services, STARS holds meetings with the girls once a week, provides counseling, and helps them get back in school or find work.
For years, girls caught in prostitution have been treated like criminals, tossed in juvenile halls with little hope for a real future...while the pimps and johns are slapped with minor offenses.
But I see this tide starting to shift.
Judges are throwing much harsher penalties at the true criminals and a greater understanding is beginning to bloom for who these girls really are.
No little girl dreams of one day becoming a stripper, porn star, or prostitute. I don’t care what people try to tell themselves when slapping that five in a g-string, or downloading the latest viral video.
These girls deserve our help. They deserve our love. They deserve to matter. They deserve so much more than my 90 minute workout.
I’m so grateful for those willing to take on the cases I can barely stand to hear about. I’m so honored to have friends trying to stop the world’s oldest form of slavery. I pray they never lose heart, or lose sight of the fact that even if all their thousands of hours of work and thousands of dollars spent only reaches one girl...
That that one girl is worth it. She is no longer for sale.