More than 150 people gathered at Christ’s Church of the Valley in San Dimas for the My Rescue fashion show Friday for a good time and a cause: to spread awareness of sex trafficking and raise funds for victims of the practice.
Enactus, the event’s host, is an international nonprofit organization that partners with businesses and college campuses to provide students with the initiative to start a movement or create social impact.
APU Enactus partnered with Rapha House, a nonprofit group that rescues females from sex trafficking through safe houses in partnership with Worldteam Foundation, another 501c3 that wants to open a safe house in Southern California.
Including the frosted cupcakes, luxurious giveaways and stylish clothes was an intentional decision made by Enactus, according to the keynote speaker, Amy Andrews.
“We decided to do a fashion show because we thought it engaged students, community members, businesses and was something entrepreneurial that we could do to empower women,” said My Rescue project leader Abby Wheeler.
According to UNICEF, approximately 29 million people are trafficked each year and nearly 300,000 women and children from the U.S. alone.
“It’s important to understand that trafficking is not something that happens in other countries. People need to be involved [in] the restoration of this tragedy and in preventing it.”
Three survivors shared their stories: Amy Andrews, Jennette M. and Tonya Benanat.
Jennette M., a 27-year-old survivor, said she was raped and molested when she was 6, and as a young adult, she was tied up and tortured for three hours by an unknown suspect.
“It was three hours, but it felt like three years,” Jennette said. “After I escaped, I ran for help, but no one helped me. They all shut the door on my face.”
All three women are from local cities in the area.
“Just hearing all of their stories broke my heart but inspired me at the same time,” said senior biochemistry major Maxine Villanueva.
Enactus’ main objective was to raise funds in addition to provoking thought and conversation and increasing education on the subject.
“Some people see movies such as ’12 Years a Slave’ and think, ‘I’m so glad we don’t live in that kind of era anymore,’ when in reality, we do. It’s a just a different kind of slavery,” said My Rescue project coordinator Kaitlin Drury.
Tickets for the fundraiser ranged from $10-$12 depending on the date of purchase. In addition to the fashion show, guests enjoyed a dessert buffet, coffee, a live band and speeches given by the three survivors.
Of the funds generated at the event, 60 percent will go to Worldteam Foundation for the safe house in Pomona and 30 percent will go to Rapha House. The remaining 10 percent will stay with Enactus to sustain the organization and host future events.
Local clothing stores, including Miss Mary Mac and Heavenly Treasures, showcased their items in the fashion show.
“I didn’t realize that sex trafficking was such a huge problem here in the United States,” said junior biology major Andrew Chandler. “It really opened my eyes to see how I can help stop the problem. I definitely want to get more involved with the companies who were present today.”