Sara Pomeroy and I drove to Germanna Community College in Fredericksburg on October 3rd to speak before the Alpha Kappa Sorority, Xi Upsilon. It was because of their desire and request to learn about the human trafficking issue that we went and spoke before one of their monthly meetings. Giving Sara a much needed break, I spoke this time. As more and more requests come in from various groups and organizations wanting to learn about human trafficking, all the volunteer staff members are now having to step up to the plate and be willing to speak before these groups on the issue. Attending that day was a group of around 20 to 30 women.
I began by helping them to truly understand just what human trafficking is by first defining what it constitutes, then discussing statistically just how big the problem is here in the Unites States and internationally, and finally how it happens – how people fall victim to trafficking. It is always amazing to me to see how the eyes of those in attendance light up at hearing the magnitude of the problem and just how close to home human trafficking really is to their safe little worlds. They are also amazed at learning that NO ONE is exempt from becoming a possible victim. Not because of their socio-economic background, or their gender, their age, or ethnic background – everyone is a potential victim.
Once ensuring they had a better definition of human trafficking, I then spoke on just what a victim looks like. Having a better understanding of the characteristics of a victim of human trafficking can lead to clues that may help to identify victims. Understanding for instance: where they may work, their living conditions, the physical signs, what their fears are, their coping mechanisms for dealing with the horrible conditions they are having to endure – may all lead to identifying and possibly rescuing a victim.
We then like to bring the issue closer to home – to Virginia, so that those in attendance understand that this is not an issue that just happens overseas far far away. Human trafficking is a horrific problem occurring in their own back yards. Articles were then presented from different Virginia periodicals of actual human trafficking cases that have occurred just this year alone. Many were shocked to learn that most of the victims presented in these articles were actually purchased through Backpage.com. Even more shocking to most was to learn that our very own state was only recently on the dirty dozen list for human trafficking. Yes….it’s just that rampant here in the state of Virginia!
While it is easy to become very discouraged at this point on hearing all this information about a very grim subject, we were also able to provide hope and encouragement. I presented the laws that have been passed in just the last few years here in our state that have made a difference in dealing with this issue. But we still have more work to do to truly eradicate this problem from the state of Virginia. And that is why Richmond Justice Initiative exists – to “educate, equip and mobilize communities with the tools needed to be a force in the global movement to end human trafficking in the United States.” We do this through “awareness, education, prevention, advocacy and prayer.” We in essence have a two part mission: 1) to stop trafficking and 2) create modern day abolitionists.
Want to become involved yourself in helping to end this evil? Then follow RJI by visiting our web site (www.rvaji.com), our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/justiceRVA?fref=ts), on Twitter (Justice RVA), or just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. ~ Christina Nyczepir