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Breaking the Silence Forum

Recently, Richmond Justice Initiative was invited to participate in a forum held at the Temple of Judah entitled, Breaking the Silence. The event was organized by Ms. Arvla Bellamy who not only invited RJI, but also representatives from Camp Diva, Henrico CASA, and Virginia Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence Acton Alliance to participate.

The forum began with a beautiful dance presentation by five young girls. RJI Volunteer Staff member, Lane Burgess then spoke first on the issue of human trafficking. Lane began by providing an overview of what RJI is all about – our mission to provide awareness, education, prevention and advocacy on modern day slavery. The relaxed atmosphere of the forum provided the opportunity for those in attendance to ask questions and to relate their own experiences with human trafficking.

Lane went on to define human trafficking, provide current statistics on the issue, discuss myths people believe regarding trafficking, and to describe common forms of sex slavery. Lane also discussed labor trafficking. She then encouraged those in attendance to either write down, or pull out their phones and add, the phone number to the National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888). There were 352 calls made to the Hotline last year just from the state of Virginia, from those who suspected cases of human trafficking.

Lane talked about RJI’s next steps as an organization: that of developing the Prevention Project in area high schools, continuing to educate the community on human trafficking wherever the opportunities arise, and to create other Justice Initiatives throughout the state.  Those in attendance were especially interested in hearing about the Prevention Program. The need for such a program is clearly recognized and wanted by those in the community. Lane invited those in attendance to join us in playing a part in this fight against slavery by possibly interning with our organization, or finding ways to raise money to help us, or to even become a church champion for RJI. Everyone can become a modern day abolitionist.

Ms. Angel Patton, Founder and Executive Director of Camp Diva was next to speak. Ms. Patton went on to explain how Camp Diva is a unique program developed for underprivileged African American teen girls, to provide them with opportunities “to prepare themselves spiritually, physically, socially, emotionally, intellectually, and culturally for their passage into womanhood”. “The program’s objectives are grounded in the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.” To learn more about this organization, visit their website at: https://www.girlsforachange.org/campdiva.

Ms. Jeannine Panzera also shared the purpose and mission of the volunteer organization she worked for, Henrico CASA. CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. It is a non-profit volunteer organization that advocates for the best interests of children who are abused and neglected in Henrico County. To learn more about CASA and what they do, you can visit their website as well: https://www.henricocasa.org/.

The final speaker of the forum represented Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. This organization is committed to ending sexual and domestic violence. They are recognized leaders in their response to these atrocities here in the state of Virginia. For further information about this organization: https://www.vsdvalliance.org/. – Christina Nyczepir

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