I’m Wendy Lowe, the new director of Defend Dignity.
I’d love to have a coffee and get to know you, but…a blog will have to suffice for the moment!
It is a privilege to have been entrusted with the leadership of an organization that profoundly influences all forms of sexual exploitation in Canada.
I began my work with Defend Dignity on May 15th. For the first six weeks, our beloved founder Glendyne Gerrard took me through a comprehensive orientation process which included meeting some of the people who make Defend Dignity possible: staff and volunteers, our survivor advisors, our collaborators, colleagues, and a few of our donors. She explained our Advocacy work—historically and currently—our Awareness projects (of which there are many!) and the Aid efforts we offer to those impacted by sexual exploitation.
My orientation process taught me a lot, but it especially showed me that Defend Dignity is doing more than most people realize. While Defend Dignity works hard to keep you informed, we simply can’t tell you everything we are doing—trust me, you don’t have that much time!
I’ve been following Defend Dignity since its beginnings. I was leading a front-line agency which assisted people in crisis, some of whom were being prostituted. When I first talked with Glendyne back then about what she was doing, Defend Dignity was just finding its feet. I remember thinking how necessary the work of Defend Dignity was. Frontline agencies move from crisis to crisis but rarely have the fiscal or time resources to work on advocacy at a national level, seldom at the provincial level and only a little bit at the municipal level. We had no time or money to take on the Big Picture issues. Developing curriculum and awareness campaigns to help people understand the issues of sexual exploitation was beyond our expertise. Defend Dignity was addressing a unique need, as it continues to do today.
After I was hired as the new director, Glendyne asked me a question: when did I know I was supposed to take on this role?
This is what I told her.
Over two decades ago, I conversed with a 14-year-old who ran away from government care at age 12. Her story was painful from the beginning; it became tragic when a pimp got ahold of her within days of her running from her group home and initiated her into prostitution by inviting ten men to initiate this “fresh meat” by taking turns paying to rape her—then just 12 years old—in a flop house.
The physical damage of that night is something she still deals with today. She has been very generous in telling her story publicly and giving permission to use her story to create awareness. My “yes” to Defend Dignity, I realize now, began in that first conversation.
Over the years, in many different roles, I have met more individuals who have been sexually exploited. Those individuals and their stories generously shared have arrested and engaged my heart. Their stories are why I moved from Alberta to Ontario because I believe I can help Defend Dignity continue its work.
You and I are so privileged to be able to do this work together for those who are being exploited. You, by staying informed and chatting with your family, friends, and work colleagues about these issues; us, by thinking up new strategies to increase awareness and figuring out ways to inform politicians, educators, and parents. All of us, by giving our time and some of our financial resources to make services for survivors possible and to pay the cost of running an awareness campaign; or, being on the Hill and connecting with our national political leaders, helping them understand what is at stake on these issues.
By engaging with Defend Dignity, you’re choosing to look at the ugly of the world and choose to do good. We are so grateful for your partnership as we continue this important work.
I really do look forward to having a coffee with you in person in the months and years ahead as we do our part to end sexual exploitation, particularly here in Canada.
Until then, thank you for your continued support of Defend Dignity!