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