DOLL: a graphic novel to raise awareness about sex trafficking

I recently stumbled across a beautiful graphic novel created to raise awareness about sex trafficking by the talented illustrator Dale Vande Griend. I reached out and asked if I could share on my blog/website, and Dale graciously agreed. The story is powerful, the stills are beautifully drawn and full of emotion and suspense, while the underlying message is dark and bleak. Sex trafficking is one of many modern-day forms of human slavery and is rampant in every corner of the globe.

In 2016, at any given time, an estimated 40.3 million people worldwide were in modern slavery, of which 4.8 million people were victims of forced sexual exploitation. Women and girls account for 99% of victims in the commercial sex industry. Poverty, limited opportunities at home, lack of education, unstable social and political conditions, economic imbalances and war are some of the key drivers that contribute to someone’s vulnerability in becoming a victim of modern slavery. What’s more, victims can often face more than one type of abuse and slavery, for example, being sold on to another trafficker and then forced into another form of exploitation. Source: Unseen UK

According to A Global Report on Trafficking in Persons by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the most common form of human trafficking (79%) is sexual exploitation. The victims of sexual exploitation are predominantly women and girls. Surprisingly, in 30% of the countries which provided information on the gender of traffickers, women make up the largest proportion of traffickers. In some parts of the world, women trafficking women is the norm.

The report goes on to state second most common form of human trafficking is forced labour (18%), although this may be a misrepresentation because forced labour is less frequently detected and reported than trafficking for sexual exploitation.

To make matters worse, the report indicates that worldwide, almost 20% of all trafficking victims are children. However, in some parts of Africa and the Mekong region, children are the majority (up to 100% in parts of West Africa).

Although trafficking seems to imply people moving across continents, the UNODC report indicates that most exploitation takes place close to home. Data show intra-regional and domestic trafficking are the major forms of trafficking in persons.

Trafficking is a global issue and raising awareness is an important step toward eliminating this horrible and exploitative trade. Dale is posting the entire DOLL graphic novel online a few panels at a time to help raise awareness. You can follow along on Instagram as the story unfolds.

From Dale:

Here is a little about me and why I’m making this book.

Hi, my name is Dale Vande Griend and I’m an illustratoradvocate, and storyteller.

Several years ago, I wanted to find some way I could spark imagination and tell stories, while also giving back to the world.

So, I started drawing.

With drawing I’m able to create illustrationsgraphic novels, and picture books.

I want my art to point to a greater good, broaden our understanding, and bring us, as people, closer in community together.

My current project is my graphic novel, DOLL. It’s about a girl named Roopa, an Indian brothel, a doll, and a survival story.  

While on a filming trip in India, I sat down and met a group of ladies that live in the red light district of their town. They talked and I listened. I heard the stories of their lives and learned a lot about their situation and their trials. Something deep in my heart changed. 

During this same time I had started reading a lot of graphic novels and thought it might be fun to learn how to draw and give making my own graphic novel a shot. I just needed a good story. I read Maus, a graphic novel about the Holocaust, and Boxers and Saints, a book about the Boxer Rebellion in China. These books talked about serious subjects but also gave the reader a compelling story. I had my idea. Sex trafficking in India. 
The story I wrote is to raise awareness about sex trafficking so that hopefully, in the future, ladies like the ones I met won’t just be surviving in a red light district. They’ll be thriving in this world.

Find out more about Dale’s projects at

See the graphic novel at

Follow @exodusillustration on Instagram

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I'm a mother, wife, travel addict, bookworm, survivor, feminist, artist, black sheep, and challenger of the status quo. Founder of and

6 thoughts on “DOLL: a graphic novel to raise awareness about sex trafficking

  1. Great blog for taking trafficking issue in front. Child trafficking now becoming more common and common. As in India has dens population peoples sleep on the street and the railway station was the most chance of having child theft and unattended kids going to school.


  2. This is so incredible! I found Dale on Instagram or he found me… I talked to one of my friends that was trafficked… it is true that they go to a place in their head to make them not think of what is happening to them. She did the same from childhood rape to the Trafficking. Thank you Dale for bringing a visual to us all!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s such an incredible initiative by Dale. His work is amazing, and for such a good cause. His story is really empowering as well. It makes me so sad to think of what trafficked victims must go through – and how they cope. It’s horrendous and I really hope we get to see this disgraceful trade abolished in our lifetimes.


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