Why I Ride: Kelly Coles

A few years ago, I learned about sex trafficking for the first time and knew I had to do something. I was unsure of myself and of my passions, and completely unaware that this movement would shape what I want to do with the rest of my life.

In college, I joined my university chapter of the International Justice Mission and interned for Redeemed Ministries--one giant, global organization and one tiny, local ministry fighting the same injustices. As I learned more about every form of trafficking, I began to talk to people about it all. the. time. People weren’t very surprised to hear about global slavery, but they were floored to hear about sex trafficking in the US. In Texas. In our city. The more people I talked to, the more questions I found.

Who are the victims?
Where do they come from?
How many victims are there?
Why doesn’t law enforcement bust down doors?
Why don’t victims leave their traffickers?
Why does the demand exist?

Who, what, where, why?

In the anti-trafficking movement, there are a lot of people trying to answer these questions. In fact, we have to have these answers in order to sustain the movement, understand the crime, fundraise, and prevent it in future generations. We have scrounged up answers, but many of the them are shots in the dark at best. This crime is too big and too hidden to make accurate estimates without extensive research. We are making progress (see the IDVSA’s human trafficking mapping project), but we will never defeat this beast without a continued pursuit for answers.

As a student of sociology and journalism, I am trained to ask questions carefully and with a grain of salt. Though I do not yet know what it will look like, I know this is my place in the moment--to answer the questions that will keep us going. I hope to join other researchers to bring the intricacies of this issue to light and pass on what we find. To be a movement that accomplishes anything, we have to know what we are up against. Going into my last semester of college (WHAT), I have no idea what this next step will look like. But I know I am not alone in this pursuit for justice, and I know the only way to keep this movement rolling is to keep talking.

To make even a dent in the commercial sex industry, we need a lot of people with diverse passions, ideas, and personalities. For this reason, I am fired up to be a part of the Pedal the Pacific team. I get to add my voice to an incredible team of advocates who all came to this crazy 1700 mile ride with different dreams. And I am honored to fundraise for an organization that will offer holistic care to survivors and TRIPLE the amount of beds available for sex trafficking survivors in the state of Texas (wow!!).

So, after sharing a bit of my story, I encourage you, no matter who you are or what you do, to consider where you might fit in this fight. Whether you are a counselor, volunteer, researcher,  financial supporter, advocate, we need your voice. Our 11 voices on this journey will undoubtedly be loud, but to be heard, we need you too. So help us spread the word!

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