Timothy DeLizza via Crowdrise
October 07, 2011
I've decided to run a half-marathon to help support the Somaly Mam Foundation, an organization that exists to rescue and rehabilitate survivors of human trafficking. I'd like to ask you to donate.
As anyone who has dated, befriended, or directly assisted women previously subjected to sexual violence can confirm, such violence leaves a permanent mark. Even in America, escaping unhealthy situations caused by single individuals can be difficult. Those who do escape often understandably face difficulty connecting, communicating and remaining engaged. My experience with such individuals suggests that the barriers to escape are often both psychological (fear of the abuser, as well as emotional attachment to him and the community they share) and practical (fear of losing financial support, as well as issues of child custody and immigration status).
Something I like about Somaly Mam's foundation is that it works to deal with both aspects of the sex trafficking problem by providing psychological services and healthy community for survivors, while assisting in practical considerations like assisting survivors in finding employment. Such support is especially essential in the human trafficking context given that escape and recovery is so much more difficult in situations where the violence is caused by well organized, profitable groups that are uncontrolled by local governments or prevailing social norms in a community (including within a sub-culture within the United States).
As a survivor of child sexual slavery herself, Somaly is uniquely positioned to both understand the needs of current victims and to provide a heroic example of the hope available to those still trapped. You can read more about her story and foundation here.
My thinking behind attempting to raise money through running a half-marathon has a couple bases. First, I've long looked for ways to support survivors of sexual violence. My first pro-bono work at a law firm was assisting a victim of domestic and sexual violence obtain her green card without the assistance her abusive ex-husband. My first major donation as a lawyer was to an organization similar to Somaly Mam, after reading this moving editorial.
Second, as Machiavelli once advised, it's always wise to be generous with other people's money. I mean this as a joke, but it's true that getting people I know to chip in will benefit the cause more than if I just put in my own money and time. And by running the half-marathon I'm able to offer to you in exchange the amusing sight of me trying complete a half-marathon. (And given that I have never run more than 3 miles and only have 9 weeks to train, this WILL be an amusing sight).
Finally, as someone involved with this event put it, "if a 12 year old girl who was sold into slavery at the age of 5, can survive everything she was forced to endure, and still come out of that brutality with love in her heart and the ability to move on and grow into an empowered woman," the least I can do is "finish a 13.1 mile course."
Ps. As to guidance of what to donate, anything you can offer is greatly appreciated. If you happen to be unemployed or underemployed at the moment, feel free to post my benefit page onto your social media mechanism of choice.