Lena Dunham Gives Powerful Speech On Sexual Abuse At Variety’s Power Of Women Event

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At the recent Power Of Women Luncheon in New York, the annual event thrown by Variety magazine, a number of Hollywood notables were honored specifically for their charitable work.

Kim Kardashian was honored for her work with the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, actress Rachel Weisz was honored for her work with the Opportunity Network which helps underprivileged kids get scholarships for a much-needed education, Whoopi Goldberg was recognized for her association with Figure Skating in Harlem, a charity she started wich provides scholarships to girls in New York, and Glenn Close was honored for starting Bring Change 2 Mind, an organization working to end stigma around mental illness in both the young and the old.

Lena Dunham was awarded for her work with an organization called GEMS (Girls Education and Mentoring Service) a non-profit founded by activist Rachel Lloyd to help young women from low-income backgrounds who have been domestically sex trafficked and exploited. Her powerful acceptance speech showed that this issue is not only personal to Lena, but also very important.

First, she made a hilarious introduction in regards to being a feminist, which you will see in the full video below.

“It will surprise no one in this room that I identify as a feminist. If it does surprise you, I suggest you take a look around the room and make sure you’re not lost.The Men’s Rights Association meeting is happening at a PF Chang’s in New Jersey and I hear it started already, so you should probably get moving.”

Then she launched into the root of why sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, and sex trafficking is a huge problem here in the US.

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“Some phrases that have left my lips in the past: ‘What a ho,’ ‘Hey, hooker,’ ‘sup, slut.’ Some songs I kept listening to: “Big Pimpin’,” “It’s Hard Out There for a Pimp”; age 13, my best friend and me in her bedroom screaming along to Sublime, “Annie’s 12 years old and two more she’ll be a whore.” Here’s the tricky thing about language — it lies about how powerful it is. When I used those words, I felt subversive, naughty, strong. I did not realize how these songs and words were not ways for me to reclaim my feminine power — in fact, they’ve silenced and shamed the women they purported to describe and reduce them to objects, or worse, punch lines. They celebrated the exploiters, and hid the exploited.”

It is a big wake up call for us to examine the pop culture we ingest everyday and how we ignore the blatant signs around us in regard to the way women’s power is taken away from them subtly.

She goes on to talk about her own rape and how it left her feeling powerless because choices about her own body had been taken away from her. It is why she feels very strongly about speaking up on this topic today.

Worldwide it is estimated there are 26 million people (the majority of which are women and girls) caught in human trafficking often referred to as modern day slavery. In fact there are more people caught in this modern day slavery than ever before at any point in human history.

In the US, under federal law, any minor under the age of 18 years induced into commercial sex is a victim of sex trafficking, yet there are still many states where victims are often treated like the criminals and more work needs to be done to show authorities the difference, which is where organizations like GEMS comes in.

According to the Justice Department, the average age of entry into child prostitution in the US is between 13-14, and many of these kids are runaways or homeless teens. Human trafficking generates close to $10 Billion each year in the US. Something for all your football fans to be aware of, Superbowl day each year sees a huge surge in human trafficking and it is now referred to as “National John’s Day” by authorities who crack down on prostitution and trafficking rings in a big way on that day each year now. It is a sobering thought to realize that this is happening in our own communities.

What Rachel Lloyd has created is giving everyday girls a place to regain their voice and power and the ability to integrate back into society. GEMS provides housing, counseling, education and employment so the girls that come through their program are equipped to live a full life away from exploitation.

“GEMS fosters a community of strength and support where women and girls fight to ensure that voices which are silenced in our society and faces that are ignored are at the forefront of a new conversation,” said Lena about the org.

They have also been a powerful force in helping change and create legislation to protect, not prosecute, these innocent girls who deserve help. They helped advocate and pass the New York Safe Harbor For Exploited Youth law in 2008 which is the first state law in the country that ensures exploited girls aren’t prosecuted for something they can’t legally consent to. Wow, that is HUGE! Why do we not have this law all over the country?

Just that statement alone shows why people such as Lena and activists like Rachel Lloyd cannot stop talking about this issue because if enough people act, change can happen. Watch the full speech below:


 

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Lena Dunham Says The Media's Fixation On Women's Bodies Is Controlling & Sexist

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