“On Saturday, July 20 multiple teams of men and women from across Richmond set out in an attempt to bring hope for justice to many forgotten areas of the region. Volunteers were given stickers and postcards from RJI with the national victims hotline for sex-trafficking. The goal was to approach a long list of gas stations and motels in areas known by local authorities to be hotspots for sex trafficking, due to their proximity to highways, areas of high crime, and poverty.
Equipped with a list of addresses, we made our first stop. We were assigned to a list of gas stations on Jeff-Davis Highway, which runs parallel to I-95 right up to the city. Other teams were assigned to different parts of town. It’s funny how quickly your own city changes when you just cross the street. We stopped at something like 10 gas stations and motels down a strip hardly over two miles long. What surprised us was not the difference in cultures or lifestyles or commodities being sold – we already knew that trafficking was an issue in the area. What surprised us both was that everyone else knew, too.
How do you stop something like that? We spoke with a handful of shop owners and expected many of them to be concerned about posting stickers in their business that might draw unwanted attention. Instead, every single person that we spoke with was not only aware of the issue but was equally insulted by it.
“Can you get me a bigger sign?”
“Do you have extra stickers you can leave here?”
“Yes, I saw it happen a few days ago on this street”
So this is where the conversation starts. Maybe we can help those who are on the front lines of this injustice by giving them the tools they need – a phone number, a website, or some sort of resource where they know that they can start a domino-like string of events that will (because it will) mean intercession and rescue for victims of sex-trafficking.”
By: Anne Taylor Robertson