Last week I was in Mexico City…to serve and advocate for vulnerable and victimized children while equipping future leaders to more effectively advocate for victimized kids in their own spheres of influence.
On Tuesday of last week, our team was invited by the Mexican Congress’s Human Rights Commission to attend a historical meeting that took place. This meeting marked the transition of leadership in the Mexican Congress’s Commission to End Human Trafficking. The leadership of the Commission to End Human Trafficking was passed on from Rosi Orozco, the founding leader of the Commission, to twelve new congressional leaders.
…It was awesome to be in the Mexican Congress on such a special day.But there was one thing that bothered me.My shoes.
I wore my dress shoes on Tuesday, and though they are only flats, they really started to hurt my feet after a while. By the end of the day I was getting blisters. Now…don’t judge me for this…but I spent quite a bit of time thinking about how I wanted to get a pair of nice heels that I could wear to formal events and not get blisters in. I tried to sit down as much as I could throughout our time in Congress…
On our way back to the hotel we drove through Mercet, one of the infamous red light districts of Mexico City. Mercet is basically a huge market where you can buy anything imaginable—from bikes to baskets to toys to eyebrow-waxing to a brand new toilet. Intermixed with the hustle and bustle of people shopping for anything and everything are girls. Lots and lots of girls.
They are easy to spot for several reasons. First of all, they are not walking around like all the other people…with loads of shopping bags on their arms. No. They don’t walk. They just stand. They stand and stand and stand and wait; leaning up against the walls of stores or against the fence adjacent to the road. They are also easy to spot because they don’t wear much and their clothes are always revealing and tight. Lastly, they are easy to spot because of their shoes—they always wear high heels. Very, very high, cheap high heels.
As we drove through Mercet, the thought hit me that the girls we passed—who were (and are right now) being prostituted against their will—wear shoes much more uncomfortable that my dress flats. Their shoes are high, high heels; very cheap ones that I’m sure hurt like heck. On top of that, they have to stand for 8-10, sometimes 15-20 hours a day. They just stand and stand and stand in those terrible shoes. They can’t sit down when they want. They have to stand and wait unless they are with a client. Even when it’s really hot and they get sunburned, or when it’s cold and they want to put on a jacket, or when it’s rainy and they’re wet and shivering, they have to stand there…
Girls line the street as they wait for clients. The cars you see are not in a traffic jam, they are driven by men purchasing sex on their way home from work.
I know that the sore feet of those being prostituted is miniscule compared to the sexual abuse and other horrific suffering that victims of trafficking face every day. But in a small, tiny way, feeling my feet hurt, and thinking of how much more their feet must hurt, made their suffering just a little more real to me.
They say there are three levels to empathy. The deepest, most intimate level is when one can say, “I have suffered as you have suffered.” The next level is when one can say, “I have suffered like you have suffered.” The third level, the first level of empathy, is when one can say, “I have not suffered like you have suffered, but I am so deeply, radically, moved by your suffering that I can not help but act, enter in and join with you.”
I hope that I will continue to enter in and empathize, bit by bit…one tiny realization at a time, like relating to little things like shoes…And I hope that you will too.
Mary Wade is a blogger with a passion for ending child sex trafficking. She wrote this post about her recent trip to Mexico City on behalf of the non-profit iEmpathize. The post itself has been slightly edited and condensed and was originally published on Aug. 2 on Mary’s blog.