A young woman’s apparel is impacting people’s views of prostitution.
Savanah Lawrence first publicly wore her T-shirt which reads, “Slavery still exists. . . and its name is prostitution,” while sightseeing in Washington D.C. with her sister. The message on the T-shirt is a quote from the French author and poet Victor Hugo, perhaps best known in the U.S. for his powerful novels Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
“While we were waiting to cross the street, a runner looked at my shirt and told me he thought it was really cool,” Lawrence remembers. “He said, ‘Rock on!’ and then continued on his way.”
Lawrence went on to relate how she recently started wearing the shirt to the gym. “The first time I wore it to the gym, the man at the front desk noticed it and said ‘That’s a really cool shirt!’ As I was leaving later, he asked me where I got it.”
Another time Lawrence wore the shirt to the gym a man read it and exclaimed, “Way to tell the truth!”
“Prostitution is being so normalized by the international policy push for full decriminalization of it. . . it is so cool to think that people who have seen my shirt may have reconsidered,” Lawrence shared. “I used to think that prostitution was a moral issue until I started to read research articles which reported the horrors of life in prostitution. . . then I understood the violence and hatred of women that [prostitution] promotes.”
Lawrence had a year-long legal fellowship with the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) that ended in February 2017. She currently works at an anti-sex trafficking organization, Shared Hope International.
“The society we live in says there is no right or wrong and that people should be able to do what they want. . . but the work that I have done has helped me understand that prostitution is a form of slavery. . . Because of the huge amount of violence that takes place in prostitution, the state has the right to become involved. Just as a state can legally become involved when parental discipline becomes child-abuse, the state should become involved when it comes to prostitution which is inherently violent.”
Three of the five times she has worn the shirt in public, people have openly vocalized their support. Of all those who have commented on her shirt, no one has reacted with anger of disapproval.
Lawrence said her T-shirt conveys a message for victims of prostitution and sex trafficking that is not being shared. “We hear people say that women should have the right to choose [prostitution] for themselves. . .this whole narrative takes place around the idea of ‘what these women have the right to do.’ Of course they should have rights. They should have the right to be free from sexploitation. A huge majority of women involved in prostitution are victims of sex trafficking. They are victims of a form of slavery.”
This T-shirt designed by NCOSE and other products to combat sexual exploitation can be purchased from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation shop.