2024 Blog

Doing it Scared

I first encountered Pedal the Pacific while in high school. Like many others, social media was the source. I admired these brave women year after year. From afar I watched them confront apathy, pursue awareness, engage communities, change flats, and raise a million dollars for the cause. I’ve changed considerably since I first followed this impressive collection of women, but the mission and meaning have resonated with me across the years!

The idea of participating myself had always been in the back of my mind, but I never thought it would fit into my timeline. Then applications rolled around this year at the ideal moment. I had my first open summer since early high school. It’s also the last summer I can participate before aging out, so applying only felt natural. I had no reservations and couldn’t think of a better way to spend my summer. 

From the moment I accepted my spot on the team, I have felt showered in love like never before. Pedal the Pacific is a beautiful mosaic of women who champion one another in personal development and in the fight against sex trafficking. I have never been included in such an empowering community and cannot wait for what my teammate Clare aptly called our team’s “50 day hangout” this summer. I am honored to be associated with these people who radiate inclusivity, openness, and compassion. 

Pedal is the perfect opportunity to challenge my comfort zone and address my ignorance. It is the beginning of my postgrad journey of lifelong learning, getting me proximate to an issue often ignored. 

I ride to shed light on the injustices of human trafficking and to seek justice for those impacted by it. I already know infinitely more than when I began this adventure and cannot wait to look back on how I continue to grow between now and the finish line.

My prior knowledge of sex trafficking consisted of what I had learned in high school human geography, seeing peers participate in the End It Movement, and hearing (often dramatized) news stories. The injustice of trafficking always struck me, but I didn’t know where to begin engaging in the fight. Pedal provides an opportunity for me to do what I can with what I have. It offers a tangible way for me to take action and support organizations making an impact.

I appreciate the learning opportunities Pedal facilitates prior to the coast through our weekly meetings, book club (Girls Like Us by Rachel Lloyd), NCMEC training courses, guest speakers, and more. 

I have been especially shocked by the prevalence of child trafficking within the US, with 200,000 to 300,000 adolescents at risk for commercial sexual exploitation in the United States each year (Lloyd 11). I've also realized how disproportionate this risk is, affecting certain populations the most. An alarming 70-90% of commercially sexually exploited youth and adult women in the sex industry were sexually abused prior to their recruitments (65). About 70% of sexually exploited youth come from low-income backgrounds (45). In 2007, 75% of sexually trafficked children in NYC were in foster care at some point in their lives. These are simply some of the many groups exceedingly impacted. 

The statistics are staggering, but I’ve found personal stories particularly sobering. Access to victim and survivor stories has been an incredibly impactful experience. These stories give a face to the issue, humanize survivors, and address any preconceived notions. These are real, human lives injured by an industry with estimated annual global profits of $150 billion (https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/2022-02/CCHT%20Annual%20Report.pdf)! 

I’ve also discovered the problem of choice, which impacts the way we view and treat those in the life. To choose is to “select from a number of possible alternatives; decide on and pick out” (American Heritage Dictionary). Something can only be considered a choice if there is another reasonable, viable option. And to leave the life someone needs options, resources, somewhere to go, and support after. The organizations we partner with through Pedal are doing wonderful work to this end, and I look forward to conversations we’ll have with them on the coast. 

Pedal is also teaching me important, transferable life skills. I’ve come to learn that bravery is doing things scared. I have transformed into a bolder and more resilient version of myself, both on and off my bike. And I plan to keep conquering my fears until all are free!

July 12, 2024
Chloe Aguilar

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