Over my four years at The University of Texas at Austin, I have been humbled by the shrouded corruption and injustice that has a foothold in my beloved city of Austin, Texas. A few months ago I was sitting in my car, less than 500 feet away from a brothel in North Austin. I was watching men, one after another, enter and exit. My entire body ached. My mind was filled with rage. My heart was broken as I contemplated the day-to-day reality of the women behind the curtained glass doors. The disguised establishment of a massage parlor was positioned in the middle of a strip mall, between the neighborhood HEB and a Subway. It was in plain sight, surrounded by commonplace businesses employed by ordinary people. As I watched this horrific display of injustice, one specific man caught my attention. He walked into the establishment, and I sat in anticipation, praying and longing for him to exit. I waited less than 30 seconds until he walked out. Chills, rooted in my feelings of astonishment and disbelief, overwhelmed me. My sense of utter helplessness quickly turned to a feeling of inspiration and hope. Witnessing this act of defiance against the evils of sex trafficking helped me have the courage to seek potential change.
I ride for Pedal the Pacific because no human deserves their freedom ripped away from them. I am empowered to use the voice I have been given to advocate on their behalf.
I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to support The Refuge for DMST, an organization that I have been passionate about since early high school. I strive to consistently engage in conversation and tell others about the truths of the industry. I am excited to challenge myself to do something that is not for myself, but rather in support and honor of victims who have suffered and endured far more than I ever will. It is far too easy to go through each day caught up in our comfortable lives distracted by this world. I desire to become comfortable being uncomfortable. I want to use the summer to posture a heart of gratitude and encourage myself and the team each day to be thankful that we have the freedom to speak out against violence and corruption.
-Christina Van Essen