This International Women's Day, we're celebrating women by sharing the stories of some of the bravest and most inspiring women we've met.
As many of you know, we partner with Restore NYC, a nonprofit that seeks to rescue and restore sex-trafficked women. Restore NYC empowers women by providing housing, job training, and connections to legal services, amongst other things, so that these women can have the chance to live safe, self-sufficient lives. Many of these women have children of their own, families they need to support, and ambitions of their own.
Over the last few years, Peach & Lily has been raising awareness for Restore NYC, creating more than 1,000,000 social media impressions and contributing more than $100,000 to Restore NYC. Every December, we host a social media campaign, #maskforacause, specifically for Restore NYC, and we’re always so encouraged by how many of you participate, helping to spread the word about this fantastic organization. We're honored to participate in Restore NYC's mission to empower some of the most disenfranchised women in our community.
One of the privileges in working with Restore NYC is meeting some of the strongest women we know. These women have been through so much, and they continue to fight, not only by cooperating with the law to build cases against their abusers, pimps, traffickers but also by enrolling in ESL classes, learning new skills, and trying to build new, independent lives. It has been truly inspiring to hear so many stories of survivors of sex trafficking, of these women who demonstrate so much incredible courage and resilience in the fact of such horrifying exploitation, violence, and brutality.
Today, we celebrate all women around the world, and we thought we’d take this opportunity to share a few stories of some of these amazing women who’ve fought for new, better, independent lives through Restore NYC. We hope they inspire you as much as they inspire us!
(Please note that all names have been changed to protect these women’s identities.)
Patricia was sold to a local gang when she was just 16 years old because her parents couldn't afford to support their family. She was trafficked at a local cantina in Central America, before she was brought to New York and moved from brothel to brothel. Because she was constantly moved around, she never spent enough time in any one brothel to form relationships, her only point of contact her trafficker. This lasted for ten years. During that time, she had two children.
When her younger child was one Patricia reached out to Restore, wanting to provide a better life for her children. She moved into Restore's safe-house system and started work on obtaining a trafficking visa. She enrolled in Restore's economic empowerment program, so she could be financially independent and provide a safe environment for her children. We’re so inspired by this strong single mother who refused to give up, even with the horrors she had to endure, standing strong to restore herself and provide for her children.
Liu came to the US to escape an abusive husband and seek new opportunities and began work at a nail salon, but she barely made enough to scrape by. Her manager enticed her with a job where she could earn “a thousand dollars a week giving massages, no training necessary," and, desperate, Liu jumped at this opportunity.
On her first day, she found herself in a vacant apartment in Midtown Manhattan where her first "client" held her at gunpoint and raped her. When the customer left, she called her manager and told her about the assault, begging to leave. Her manager refused, telling her she had to stay and serve every customer who came through the door. When Liu again insisted on leaving, the manager threatened to have her deported. The fear of deportation and shock from the rape and assault kept her in the apartment through the night, as she was forced to serve a dozen more men.
Over the next week, the manager's threats continued, and Liu was forced to serve customers repeatedly. After several days of this nightmare, she managed to escape, returning to the family hostel where she had stayed when she first arrived in the US, unable to tell anyone what had happened to her because of shame and fear.
Liu went back to working at nail salons, and, at one of her jobs, she met another sex-trafficking survivor who was also a former client of Restore’s, and, for the first time, she was able to tell someone what had happened to her. The next day, she went to Restore, where she applied for a Trafficking Visa, was placed into safe housing, and enrolled in Restore’s ESL class to improve her English proficiency, preparing to join Restore’s work-readiness training.
Stories like Patricia’s and Liu’s aren’t as uncommon as we might hope. For women like them, America is a place where sexual violence against women is tolerated and stories of abuse are hidden. Survivors regularly tell stories of how they were promised jobs, better opportunities, and higher incomes, only to be assaulted, forced to provide sexual services, and threatened with violence and deportation. Traffickers take away women’s passports, threaten to harm their families back home, and keep them in isolation, all so they can continue to profit off the women they exploit.
Restore NYC has been doing truly tremendous work, helping these women stand strong, and it has been our privilege to help support their work. If you're interested in supporting all that Restore NYC does to help restore and celebrate these women, check out their page on the services they provide and how you can help!
Thank you to all the women in our community, and men who support women, for being so fabulous. We love you all and are so honored to have you in our community. Cheers to women and all their strength, resilience and courage!
Happy International Women's Day!
Peach & Lily team