Category: Blog

Blog updates from RJI Staff.

The Just Church-Available October 8th!!

I, admittedly, am not much of a reader. It takes a book that is practical, readable, and truly engaging to get me to continue reading. I was SOLD starting with page one. I have been looking for a book like this! As the Founder of an anti-trafficking organization, we are have partnered with area Churches, encouraging them to engage in the work of Justice. After reading Jim Martins book, The Just Church, I am delighted to have the perfect road map that lays out the steps that ANY church can take.

 

They are accessible strategies that will help any Church respond to God’s call to seek Justice in their own communities. Jim also hits the nail on the head in regards to what ANYONE engaging in the work of Justice MUST do in order to engage safely. So many times it is not what we do but what we DON”T do that creates burn out. He explains the importance of supporters, spotters and “The miracle of rest.” He states that “To neglect rest in physical exercise is to invite injury and threaten the sustainability of the exercise program. No neglect rest in our life of faith is a far more serious matter”

 

I believe this book will be the catalyst that will move churches from well meaning intent to seek justice, to becoming ” risk-taking, justice-seeking, disciple-making congregations”!!

 

So..what are you waiting for??? Get your copy today!!

Sara Pomeroy

RJI Founder and Direcot

VA State Director, IJM

 

RJI Table Presentation at Women Etc. Conference

Sara Pomeroy and I attended a Women Etc. conference at the Greater Richmond Convention Center on September 14, 2012. Richmond Justice Initiative was thrilled to be asked to host a table during the convention so that we might be able to make aware and educate those interested in learning more about the human trafficking issue. The Women Etc. conference is organized by Richmond, VA based RichTech’s Women in Technology Forum. RichTech “is designed to provide networking, mentoring and education opportunities for women involved at all levels of technology centric businesses or organizations.” The main goals of the inaugural conference “are to provide professional development, education, and collaboration amongst its participants”. They do this by “bringing premier speakers from across the nation in hopes of encouraging an exchange of ideas and solutions”. Two of the main speakers at the event were Ms. Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media and Dr. Kristina M. Johnson, CEO of Enduring Energy.

Over 800 women attended the event. In between each of the sessions, women were allowed to visit the tables of different organizations invited to the conference to educate those interested on what their organization was about. Sara and I were kept hopping with the numerous women who visited our table genuinely interested in hearing more about modern day slavery. Over and over again I watched as their eyes lit up at the shock of hearing just how prevalent human trafficking is not only nationally, but within the state of Virginia. Again we heard, as we often do, “I thought human trafficking happened, well – you know, in more third world countries. I had no idea it happened here.” Many took as much information on the subject as we had available wanting to either become further involved themselves, or to pass on the information to others they knew who would be interested. Some wanted to pass the information on to their children who were looking for internships within a local human rights organization. RJI is always thrilled to take on new hardworking interns.

There were a number of women who visited our table who were more intimately aware of the subject having personally witnessed for themselves its existence. There was one woman in particular who made a point of coming back to our table even though she should have been attending the next session. It was clear she wanted to talk to someone about her daughter. She spoke very low not risking that anyone would hear her, though everyone had moved on to the next session. Her lovely daughter had unfortunately been baited by a man with the promises of a lavish lifestyle if only she would come away with him. Sadly, the young woman believed him and ended up living a life of slavery to him – ending up with nothing of what he had promised. Her parents were fortunately able to rescue her in the end. The woman seemed genuinely relieved to finally talk to someone who would have some understanding of what she went through as a mother – an understanding that such things do happen to people’s children. That is one point that many people don’t seem to grasp either. You may understand that human trafficking doesn’t just occur in third world countries and that it’s even in your own backyard. But do you realize that human trafficking can happen to ANYONE? Including YOU? There are no barriers: not socio-economically, not racially, not by gender, nor by age. All barriers have been clearly crossed. Now, more than ever, let’s not wait for this ever increasing issue to become personal before we finally do something about modern day slavery. ~ Christina Nyczepir

Sara Speaks at Atlee Community Church

Atlee Community Church in Mechanicsville recently held a three day Global Leadership Summit in the month of August. Over 350 people attended the event coming from 55 different churches. Speakers such as Senior Pastor Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church and Pranitha Timothy, Director of Aftercare for International Justice Mission in Chennai, India were among the guest speakers invited. Richmond Justice Initiative Founder and Director, Sara Pomeroy was asked to speak as well during both morning services the Sunday of the event. The title of her message was – A Divine Interruption.

The service opened with the song by Chris Tomlin, We Raise Our White Flag…”The war is over, Love has come, Your love has won….This freedom song is marching on…” As the music played and the congregation sang – a video was televised showing some of the faces of victims of human trafficking. A Channel 12 interview of Sara discussing the issue of modern day slavery then followed as the music ended. Senior Pastor Jeff Boggess, of Atlee Community Church, made welcoming remarks and then introduced Sara as the speaker for the morning. This was to be a different presentation than Sara was use to delivering. This morning she would be delivering a sermon as opposed to her usual Power Point presentation. Sara opened by explaining how she first became interested in the issue of human trafficking – by watching a Podcast several years ago on an unrelated topic. Yet statistics on human trafficking were provided during that Podcast, and as Sara heard the horrific statistics and the issue was discussed, she felt God stirring in her heart to DO something. She experienced a “Divine Interruption”. Sara spoke from Acts 9:3-6 using the example of Paul’s first encounter with God on the road to Damascus. Paul, himself, on that walk was “divinely interrupted” – something that is completely unexpected and life transforming.

Sara explained to those who believed that slavery was an issue faced only in other countries far, far away – that slavery is occurring in all 50 states here in the U.S. – including Virginia. That slavery was not only occurring in Virginia, but that we are actually one of the worst states in the country with regard to human trafficking. Virginia was considered, until recently, to be one of the Dirty Dozen states.

Sara went on to share the devastating statistics of human trafficking stating that human trafficking is now in position to become the number one form of organized crime. “We need to be the generation of people that says, ‘this is not okay’ – then does something about it.” And that “who God calls – He equips”.

Sara stated that she never dreamed of becoming involved in an issue such as slavery, or that she would be in her current position as Founder and Director of a faith based, grass roots, human rights organization created for the purpose of ending this great evil. Nor has she ever been educated in any area to stop trafficking, not even a degree in social work. But it was a passion, a calling instilled in her heart from God that said, “You must respond to what you just heard.” “We are all equipped not by vocation, but by an encounter with God.”

Sara then began to research the subject to educate herself further on the issue. She found that most of the stories of cases of human trafficking came from the United States rather than from countries abroad. She encouraged the congregation to respond to that same divine interruption – that every single person could play a part in putting an end to slavery. “Church – we are the solution. There is no Plan B here. The church is anointed and equipped” to end this injustice.

Once Sara was called, once she became educated on this issue, she then began to look for the next steps. As Paul was given specific instructions after his encounter with God, Sara too found her Ananias. Her foundation for starting Richmond Justice Initiative (RJI) was from God telling her three things: 1) Sara, this is My hand – these are My people; 2) This will be done by no earthly effort but by My hand; and 3) I will give you your instructions on your knees in a place of prayer. She called the members of the congregation to pray for the victims of human trafficking and for the work of RJI.

Finally, what RJI is currently involved in was discussed. We are continuing to start other Justice Initiatives throughout the state, and the Prevention Project will soon begin in September at Hermitage High School. But there is still much more to do and that we will not stop until slavery is abolished. God hates injustice and He wants it to stop. “Do not be afraid or fear what God is calling you to do that in the natural does not fit into your comfort zone.” – Christina Nyczepir

 

Click here to watch video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/ybyg1VpF0Yo

Happy Birthday William Wilberforce

Today we celebrate the birth of one of our greatest examples and heroes in the pursuit to eradicate slavery, William Wilberforce, born this day in 1759. Wilberforce was a British politician, philanthropist and a champion in the efforts to put an end to the British slave trade, thus in hopes of stopping slavery altogether. His involvement in the abolition movement of his day was motivated by his earnest desire to put his Christianity into action and to serve God in all aspects of his life….public and private. By 1783, slavery was at an all time high carrying as many as 40,000 slaves…men, women, and children…..across the Atlantic Ocean under the worst possible conditions of what was known as the Middle Passage. So horrid were the conditions that of the estimated 11 million African slaves transported, as many as 1.4 million died along the way (Wikipedia). Sensing a calling by God, Wilberforce would journal in 1787, “God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the Slave Trade and the reformation of manners.”

Today, there is an estimated 27 million slaves in the world…more slaves than at any given time throughout history. Even with the abolishing of the slave trade in Britain and in America in the 1800’s, slavery never ended, it just changed faces. Where precious humans were traded in open market places in the past, today they are sold over the internet on such sites as Backpage.com. Human trafficking is the fastest growing form of organized crime, second only to the sale of drugs (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). According to UNICEF, there are an estimated two million children in the commercial sex trade making up for half of those sex trafficked. An estimated 600,000 to 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked across international borders annually (U.S. Department of State). It is a 32 billion dollar business (U.N.) More than ever, we need more William Wilberforce(s) in the world. “If to be feeling alive to the sufferings of my fellow creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.” “So enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did the Trade’s wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for Abolition. Let the consequences be what they would, I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had effected its abolition.” As incurable fanatics to the sufferings of those forced into slavery, let US not rest until we have put an end to all human trafficking.  “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

The Connections Between Pornography and Sex Trafficking

A friend of mine sent me this article and I had to share it because I don’t think many of us are making this connection. When I recently gave a message at a local church I addressed the audience with a challenge, and this article directly addresses that challenge. Before we can be a part of the solution to end human trafficking, we need to make sure we are not a part of the problem! If you are purchasing or watching Porn you are feeding the Sex Trafficking industry! Pornography infects approx 80% of men and 36% of women and it is an 82 Billion a year industry, and the church is not exempt from these percentages and statistics.  This article CLEARLY exposes the connection between the Porn industry and Sex Trafficking, and I recommend that everyone read this article and pass it on.

Resources can be found at: here

The Connections Between Pornography and Sex Trafficking

We often hear today about the horrors of sex trafficking, overseas and in the United States. We are appalled at those who would hold women and children as sex slaves, deny them their human rights, and make them mere objects for sexual pleasure. At the same time, pornography is tolerated, accepted, openly defended, and even celebrated. [1]Society views sex trafficking as something we ought to combat, yet it sees pornography as simply another genre of entertainment.

This dichotomy between sex trafficking and the realities of pornography is a serious misconception that needs to be addressed. As individuals who seek to oppose sex trafficking, we must understand its linkage to pornography. In this post, we will look at how pornography drives demand for sex trafficking, how victims of trafficking are used in the production of pornography, and finally, we will see that the production of pornography constitutes sex trafficking under current legal definitions.

Porn drives demand for sex trafficking

According to Shared Hope International’s report on the demand for sex trafficking, pornography is the primary gateway to the purchase of humans for commercial sex. Why this is so becomes clear when we think critically about what pornography is and how it affects its consumers.

Pornography comes from the Greek words porne, meaning “prostituted woman” or “prostitution”, and the word graphos, meaning “writings.” If we can begin to comprehend that what is depicted in pornography is not simply sex or sexuality, but commercial sexual exploitation, we can begin to rightly appreciate the negative and corrosive effects of this content.

Catherine Mackinon, a feminist professor at Harvard Law School, says that “consuming pornography is an experience of bought sex” and thus it creates a hunger to continue to purchase and objectify, and act out what is seen. [2] And in a very literal way, pornography is advertising for trafficking, not just in general but also in the sense that traffickers and pimps use pornographic images of victims as specific advertising for their “products.” [3]

In addition, viewing pornography and gratifying oneself with it ends up short-circuiting the sexual process. This creates a drug-like addiction which distorts the individual’s view on sexuality. It also trains the mind to expect sexual fulfillment on demand, and to continually seek more explicit or violent content to create the same high. [4]

As Victor Malarek put it in his book The Johns:“The message is clear: if prostitution is the main act, porn is the dress rehearsal.” [5] Pornography becomes a training ground for johns/tricks. When pornography is the source of sex education for our generation, the natural outcome is a culture of commercial sex and sex trafficking.

Trafficking victims are exploited in the production of pornography

Many women and children who are being sexually exploited and trafficked are also being used for the production of pornography. Sometimes acts of prostitution are filmed without the consent of the victim and distributed. [6] On other occasions victims are trafficked for the sole purpose of porn production. In today’s era of webcams and chatrooms, the lines between interactive pornography and virtual prostitution websites have been blurred. [7] According to Donna Hughes, “porn and internet sex shows are markets for trafficked victims.” Truly, pornography is another avenue for women to be trafficked. [8]

Porn actors and actresses are often construed as no different from those who chose to have any other career in the entertainment industry. There is little cultural understanding that many of those involved in pornography are otherwise victims of sex trafficking. Despite this lack of general awareness, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), which created our  current federal legislation against sex trafficking, it states that people are trafficked into and exploited in pornography.[9]

Porn production is a form of trafficking

Under the TVPA sex trafficking is defined as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.” [10] The realities of the porn industry are perfectly described in the definition of sex trafficking in TVPA.

A commercial sex act is “any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person.” [11] Pornography qualifies as a commercial sex act in two ways. First, the production of pornography involves payment of individuals to perform sex acts before a camera. Most performers in the industry are paid for the different films or photo shoots. Because they are produced by recording actual events, real men, women, and children are actually engaging in sexual acts, often repeatedly to get the desired shot. In this way, the production of pornography is without question a case of commercial sex acts, in this case performed on camera.

Secondly, “consuming pornography is an experience of bought sex.” [12] The experience of using pornography is a sexual one for the viewer, or as Catherine Mackinon put it, “porn is used as sex (masturbation). Therefore it is sex.” [13] Further, it is a commercial sex act in this sense because money or other items of value (clothes, cars, alcohol, drugs, etc.) are exchanged on account of this sexual experience for the consumer. The pornographers are receiving direct monetary benefit from providing this sexual act.

Recruitment for the porn industry occurs in many ways.  One former porn performer tells of being bombarded with calls to come and perform after posting a personal ad, while others were recruited through social media. According to those who were in the business of pornography, there are times when girls are held captive on porn sets or driven under the command of a pornographer or agent to and from the sets, which would fit the definition of “harboring and transporting.” Finally the provision is tangible in both the physical acts that are documented and the product that is supplied to countless consumers across the world. The porn industry is continually providing the world with commercial sex acts, which can be consumed without end.

At this point, what we have seen is that the production and consumption of pornography fully qualifies as sex trafficking as defined by U.S. federal law. Yet, under the TVPA, only a “severe form of trafficking”—one that involves “force, fraud, or coercion”—can be prosecuted. This is discomforting to know that in our legal system we tolerate and accept certain instances of sex trafficking.  Even so, many instances of porn production do involve some level of force, fraud, or coercion; we just need some political will to investigate and prosecute it. [14]

You do not have to look hard for force in the production of pornography, because even at the surface level, the violence towards the actors involved is evident. Pornographers themselves describe the violence they perpetrate on their performers without the consent of the actors.

Former porn actress Jan Meza describes the fraud in the industry. She says that the actors and actresses do not know what they are agreeing to or after their initial agreement they couldn’t get away. Something that should be noted, especially in the case of fraud, but also generally, that federal law is clear that initial consent does not preclude the possibility of the individual being victimized. Pornographers, like other pimps, learn how to exploit economic and psychological vulnerabilities to coerce them to get into and stay in the sex industry. [15] Other times they threaten or use alcohol and drugs to induce compliance, which is included in some state definitions for coercion.

The other criteria to establish that a particular case is a severe form of sex trafficking is that the minor is under eighteen years of age. Shared Hope International estimates that one in five pornographic images online is of a child. The prominence of this speaks to the very “severe” nature of the porn industry. Yet even among the material that is not deemed “child pornography” you can find individuals under the age of eighteen.

Having understood the interconnectedness of pornography and sex trafficking, we must resolve to no longer erect false distinctions between pornography and sex trafficking.  In seeking justice for those who are commercially sexually exploited, accepting and using pornography is not an option.  It’s time to understand the reality of pornography and act accordingly.

. . . .

Ana Stutler served as a pureJUSTICE intern during the summer of 2011. She was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, where her parents serve as missionaries. She is a 2011 graduate of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with a degree in International Relations, and is currently a first-year law student at Wayne State Law School in Detroit, Michigan.


[1] Mackinnon, Catharine A. “Pornography as Trafficking.” Pornography: Driving the Demand in International Sex Trafficking. By David E. Guinn and Julie DiCaro. [Los Angeles]: Captive Daughters Media, 2007. 31-42. Print, 32

[2] Mackinnon, “Pornography as Trafficking,” 34.

[3] Farley, Melissa. Prostitution and Trafficking in Nevada: Making the Connections. San Francisco, CA: Prostitution Research & Education, 2007. Print, 153.

[4] Struthers, William M. Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2009. Print, 97-99.

[5] Malarek, Victor. The Johns: Sex for Sale and the Men Who Buy It. Toronto: Key Porter, 2009. Print, 196.

[6]  Smith, Linda, and Cindy Coloma. Renting Lacy: a Story of America’s Prostituted Children. Vancouver, WA: Shared Hope International, 2009. Print, 15-25.

[7] Malarek, 203.

[8] Farley, 154

[9] U.S. Dept. of State, Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA)2000, Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (2001) (enacted). Print, Sec 102 (2).

[10] U.S. Dept. of State, Sec 103 of TVPA 2000 (8) (A), (9).

[11] U.S. Dept. of State, sec 103 (3).

[12] Mackinnon, “Pornography as Trafficking,” 34.

[13] MacKinnon, Catharine A. Only Words. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1996. Print,17.

[14] U.S. Dept. of State, Sec 103 of TVPA 2000 (8) (A), (9).

[15] Farley, 153.

RJI Founder Raising Full Time Support

Can you believe that exactly 3 years ago, a podcast took me on a “detour” that led to an encounter with God, giving rise to an incredible calling to“proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” as Isaiah says we are all anointed to do? I know so many of you have been on this detour with me since the VERY beginning and have seen God’s faithfulness and divine hand in it all!

First, I would like to thank you for your continued support of my work with RJI through prayer, attending events and financial donations. Over the past 3 years, I have seen God provide RJI with opportunities that I couldn’t have imagined. None of that would have happened if it weren’t for people like YOU!

Second, I would like to convey the excitement with which I am writing to you.  After much prayer and guidance, I am nearing the time to leave my current job to be a full-time missionary, allowing me to minister full-time with RJI!!

The need both around the world and in my own backyard is too great for me not to go full-time working for RJI.  I can’t take the chance when there might be a young girl suffering in slavery because I wouldn’t leave my job. Sure, quitting my job might not help her tomorrow, but if I could put my full energy into this vision, who knows what the future might hold for that little girl!  I have to do it.  I simply need to trust God.

Beginning this new chapter in the story that God is writing is not just about me. This chapter needs YOU in it! By the grace of God, I have already raised 60% of my budget, and I trust the rest will come in by September 9th with your help!

Here is what is needed:

·        8 People to make a $25 a month commitment.

·        8 People to make a $50 a month commitment.

·        8 People to make a $100 a month commitment.

·        These commitments can also be done as part of a small group.

With your support, I will be able to:

Become a more available and effective agent…

·   In General Assembly, through the Virginia Coalition Against Human Trafficking, advocating   legislation that will prosecute traffickers and buyers, and provide safety for victims.

·   As a Virginia State Advocate for International Justice Mission.

·   As director of RJI, continuing our mission to educate,equip and mobilize communities with the tools needed to join the global movement to end human trafficking.

·   As a supporter of the Virginia Beach/Shenandoah Valley Justice Initiatives (started in 2010) and with any additional cities that will stand up to create their own Justice Initiatives!

·  As a speaker at various events to bring the message of God’s heart for the oppressed, the importance of prayer and encourage the Church’s paramount involvement in this movement.

What YOU will get by supporting me:

·  You will receive regular updates, invitations to events, prayer requests and blogs about the work I am doing that will bring you to a better understanding of the issue.

·   With this information my prayer & hope is that you will be encouraged and mobilized to help in the fight to end slavery.

·   The knowledge that you ARE involved in the battle to end slavery.

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________

The Next Step:

Will you join me in this new chapter?  Will you be a part of the story to help end slavery?

If the answer is YES! then email me at pomeroysara@gmail.com stating the following:

Sara! I would like to support you in the following ways:

____ I want to receive regular prayer updates so I can be covering you in prayer.

____ I commit to support you monthly in the amount of $___.

____ I will ask my Pastor to have you as a guest missionary speaker at my church.

____ I commit to a onetime support of $___.

THANK you for listening to my story and for being a part of the movement to end slavery!  I look forward to hearing from each of you.

Blessings,

Sara Lynn Pomeroy

Missionary, World Horizons

804-878-1729

RJI Founder and Director

National Press Release: Nearly 80 Juveniles Recovered

Nearly 80 Juveniles Recovered in Nationwide Operation Targeting Underage Prostitution

Hundreds of FBI special agents partnered with thousands of local police officers, deputy sheriffs, state troopers, and other law enforcement personnel throughout the United States this past week, arresting those responsible for exploiting underage children through prostitution. The sixth iteration of Operation Cross Country, a three-day law enforcement action, led to the recovery of 79 children. Additionally, 104 pimps were arrested by local and state law enforcement on a variety of prostitution related charges.

Read the complete article here:

https://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/nearly-80-juveniles-recovered-in-nationwide-operation-targeting-underage-prostitution

Holly Smith and Sara Pomeroy Speak at Mechanicsville Christian Center

On May 6th, human trafficking survivor Holly Smith and Richmond Justice Initiative RJI Founder/Director Sara Pomeroy, spoke at Mechanicsville Christian Center following a sermon given by Pastor Carter Goolsby. After a short video about RJI, Holly approached the podium. To an engaged and silent audience, she shared her shocking story from years ago when at the age of 14, she was drawn into the ugly world of human trafficking. Living in New Jersey, she met her trafficker at the mall and was seduced into a life she could have never imagined. Fortunately, her freedom came quickly, and she has made it her mission to share her experience.

Sara then shared a message to educate the congregation on the facts of human trafficking: 200,000 American kids are being trafficked within our borders each year; the average age of a child that is in human slavery in the United States is 12; and human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in the world. She encouraged the congregation to respond to what they had just heard. It was important that each person understand that we all have gifts and talents that can be used to end slavery. Sara then shared how God spoke to her on the issue. He said, “I will give you your next steps and your blueprints when you are on your knees in the place of prayer.” She reviewed the success that RJI has seen since its beginning and finished with prayer and the verses Luke 4:18-19 which say: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set the oppressed free.” – Lane Burgess

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

Sara Speaks before the Huguenot Republican Women’s Club

Earlier in the month of April, Sara Pomeroy was invited to speak at a general membership meeting for the Huguenot Republican Women’s Club. It was an informal meeting, held in one of the member’s home. Being able to present the subject of human trafficking before such a group, not only provided the opportunity to educate others on the subject, but to also find those already familiar with the process of advocacy and to encourage them to join us in the efforts to create laws here in Virginia that would put an end to human trafficking.

Sara’s title to her presentation was, “Look Beneath the Surface”. Because of the nature of the group, Sara wanted to focus on the Trafficking Victim’s Protection Act, or TVPA , and on the laws created and passed in the last two years that affect human trafficking here in our state. Sara began by defining human trafficking for the group so that they would have a better understanding of what human trafficking encompassed. In simple terms, human trafficking is the exploitation of vulnerability.  Using current statistics, she then went into discussing just how big the problem is first worldwide, then here in the United States. Sara discussed some of the myths of trafficking such as: “human trafficking is the same as human smuggling”; “victims are only foreign nationals or immigrants”; and “victims will come forward on their own account”. The commonly observed forms of sex trafficking, how victims are sold, and what a victim looks like, were points also explained.

Because of the informal and more relaxed setting of the presentation, it allowed the women to ask questions as well as express their own thoughts and knowledge on the issue. When Sara informed those present that one way victims were sold was through Backpage.com, discussion actually became heated on this point, especially on how would it be possible to stop them. As Backpage.com has argued, they are protected under the First Amendment’s Freedom of Speech. What seems to bring a sense of relief is in learning that while Backpage.com is still in existence, Investigators are able to use sting operations to bust traffickers and Johns.

Sara then brought the issue closer to home in discussing trafficking in Virginia. First, she discussed the two ratings the state of Virginia received with regard to what was being done here to stop human slavery. According to Shared Hope International’s rating system, Virginia warranted an “F”. Yet with the recent passing of laws in this state, under Polaris Project’s ratings, Virginia went from a red state to a green state. Sara discussed each of these new laws in detail. What both these ratings tell us is that we as abolitionists here in Virginia, still have a lot of work ahead of us in our efforts to see an end to this great evil. – Christina Nyczepir