As a sweet, young child, your family is and should be the most important source of safety net for you. Your family should cover you in a blanket of love and protection.
Unfortunately, this was not the case for Coco Berthmann. Coco was a victim of sex trafficking in Germany for 15 long years. She bravely escaped on November 2, 2009, and currently lives in America, where she is tirelessly fighting to end human trafficking. Coco refused to be just an unfortunate statistic, and she has made it her life’s mission to help other young girls and women who have been the victim of horrendous sexual trafficking. She established the Coco Berthmann Scholarship Fund, and its mission, according to its published website, “is to provide survivors of human-trafficking with higher education, to empower these individuals world-wide to break through the vicious cycle of abuse, unhealthy patterns, and violence, and be a stepping stone to a hope-filled life full of possibilities.”
Interested people can donate, become an ambassador and volunteer their time to help put an end to a horrific version of modern-day slavery that runs rampant around the world. According to news reporter, Cara Kelly, from USA Today, “There are more than 4 million victims of sex trafficking globally” (Kelly, 2019). The many statistics of sex trafficking among women and girls is astounding and sobering and speaks to a global issue that needs to be fixed. Coco’s story is pretty close to my heart, because I am all too familiar with the damaging effects of childhood trauma. Although my experience was different than Coco’s, it has still greatly affected me, and I have overcome some challenges because of it. Far too many other young girls and women have struggles that have stemmed from childhood trauma which sometimes prevent them from reaching their full potential. My heart aches for these beautiful souls that have so much to offer this world but can’t get over their devastating experiences from their pasts. It is truly not their fault, and more should be done to provide support and healing for these precious daughters and women. Coco is a fighting force for good and strength, in advocating for human rights, and bringing awareness to human trafficking, which is nothing more than modern day slavery. She has a genuine, loving soul and demonstrates true compassion for all. Her endurance and strength are beacons of light in such a dark world. Coco embodies resilience and is an impressive example of what it looks like to be an overcomer of difficult circumstances.
On Friday, November 1, 2019, in Salt Lake City, Utah, I had the distinct pleasure and incredible honor of not only attending Coco’s 10 year celebration of her freedom from sexual trafficking, but I was able to also intricately design her dark grey, couture-lace dress with specks of yellow and gold for this special day. This “freedom dress”, as Coco affectionately referred to it, was adorned with sparkly rhinestones and ornate crystals. The two big flower motifs on the dress illustrated Coco and her sister, who was tragically lost to the horrors of trafficking. Coco wanted to remember her sister, and she communicated to me that while her favorite color was grey, her beloved sister, Anna, loved yellow and gold. It was important for me to donate this dress, and give back to a cause that I hold so near and dear to my heart. There were many obstacles in my path as I began designing this dress. The delivery of the tulle fabric was severely delayed, and there was an icey, winter snow that prevented me from being able to get to my studio on several occasions. We had only a few weeks to make her dress from start to finish, and I was determined to see this project through. Despite these challenges, I was certain to create a dream auction dress for this courageous girl who deserves the world. My process for designing the dress was documented here but I did not stop there! I felt led to offer Coco one more dress. I wanted to create a dress that symbolized what a beautiful, heroic young woman she is. Her second dress was champagne colored and enhanced with sparkling, glittery lace.I used lace from Germany for this dress because Coco is from Germany. This detail truly touched Coco’s heart. Even though this dress was intended to be auctioned off. Someone bought the dress, and turned around and presented it back to Coco!
As I rode on the plane to meet Coco with these dresses, I clutched them close to me in a garment bag in an effort to protect them, for they represented much more than just simple dresses, and it was my desire and duty to ensure their safe delivery. Coco’s reaction to the “freedom dress” made it all worthwhile. Her words in the text to me were, “Oh my gosh it looks like angel wings…it’s my sister. Though it can sometimes be difficult to detect tone through a phone, I still felt the impact of her appreciation for the dress. When Coco put on her freedom dress for the first time it somehow fit perfectly, despite the fact that I did not have much time to adjust it before the party if it did not fit. Coco was gracious and so full of love and emotions. This has been my most favorite project because it was one that is full of deep meaning and love. I talk more about the project here. It is definitely more amazing to give than to receive, and this whole experience taught me many tangible lessons, and it reminded me of why I choose to design wedding dresses. My absolute favorite quote comes from the book Treblinka by Jean Francois-Steiner. “Because life, no matter what it is like, must be lived, and because to live is not merely to survive; it is to laugh, to think, to write.” Designing dresses for women and offering wedding tips is my passion and love, and each style and process is carefully and lovingly crafted for my excited and hopeful brides. So many women have dreamed about their wedding day, and have spent countless hours looking at wedding ideas in pictures and in wedding and bridal magazines. It is my tremendous pleasure to help a bride achieve their dreams for such a special wedding occasion, and I look forward to serving you!
Please note, if you or someone you love is a victim of human trafficking or has information that can help someone else, then please get in touch with The National Human Trafficking Hotline. The National Human Trafficking Hotline is confidential, toll-free and available 24/7 in more than 200 languages.
Text: “BeFree” (233733)
Reference: Kelly, C. (2019, July 29). 3 Sex Trafficking Statistics That Explain the Enormity of the Global Sex Trade. USA TODAY. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/investigations/2019/07/29/12-trafficking-statistics-enormity-global-sex-trade/1755192001/