Tag: VA

Feature #1 of our New “How To” Series

“How to”…give to the mission of justice, even if you have no funds to contribute.

When fighting human trafficking, giving monetary support to organizations that already have the structure, the strategy, the connections and the “know-how” is a huge way to be an agent of change, but it is most certainly not the only way. While it is of paramount importance for nonprofits to receive donations to stay alive and strong, there are other ways to contribute to that nonprofit’s work without doing so financially.

  1. Spreading awareness is one of the most important keys to preventing trafficking situations. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are all valuable tools in warning about potential dangers posed by traffickers as well as exposing that slavery still exists.  These platforms also can help connect people who want to donate to the organizations that could use their dollar for good.
  2. Becoming a Prevention Project Ambassador. We at RJI provide trainings for those wanting to bring life-saving information about human trafficking to middle and high schools, church youth groups, and youth programs. Trainings cover everything from important facts about human trafficking to the Prevention Project curriculum itself, how to implement the program and the impact it is having on students. Contact joell@rvaji.com if this sparks your interest!
  3. Prayer is the strongest force against human trafficking. Please remember to keep RJI and the work that we are doing with the Prevention Project® program in your prayers. If you are interested in becoming more active in preventing human trafficking, click here to sign up on our volunteer interest form and to receive our prayer updates.

News from the Nefarious Screening

“God is highlighting the injustice of human trafficking in a pronounced way. I really believe that God is orchestrating a global awareness movement to draw people’s attention to this issue.  And one of the main reasons is so that we have begun to ask the question, “Why is this happening?””  Benjamin Nolot-President and Founder, Exodus Cry.

On July 24th, the Richmond Justice Initiative collaborated with Exodus Cry to present Nefarious at the Byrd Theater in Richmond. The evening included the movie screening and a local survivor’s story as well as commentary from Aaron of Exodus Cry and Sara Pomeroy, founder of the Richmond Justice Initiative.

The movie was shot in 19 different countries and 4 continents around the world and unveils the dark world of sex slavery in 30 different cities. Nefarious peers into the realm of where slaves are sold, where they work, and where they are held against their will.  Such evil happens not only in underdeveloped nations, but in prosperous ones as well.  This film presented viewers with first-hand interviews with real victims and traffickers while providing expert analysis from international humanitarian leaders.

The Byrd Theater was filled with hundreds of us who have been drawn by God asking “why?”  Our hearts were broken when Holly told us of her abduction.  Our minds were saturated with information and statistics from the film.  Our souls were lifted when survivors found restoration and yes, even joy, when they encountered the living God.

Before and after the film, we were photographed holding a bold statement in our hands:

Now, our question is “What can we do to end slavery?” One answer is to seek God’s direction in prayer.  I pray that God will send forth His Spirit to wake and rouse our allies and intercessors every day, rising up the full canopy of prayer and intercession to end slavery.

Another answer is to give generously, no.…. give until it hurts! – Ellen Andrusia



Human Trafficking Central Virginia Working Group meets with FBI, Police, and Homeland Security

On May 6th, 2011, the Human Trafficking of Central Virginia Working Group met with the FBI, police, and Homeland Security at the Richmond FBI field office.  Main speakers included Stuart Petro from the State Crime Commission, Erin Kulpa from the Attorney General’s Office, Peggy Roberts from Homeland Security, and Brian Hood, a civil rights investigator.

Stuart Petro reported the results of his research on the human trafficking issue in Virginia.

Erin Kulpa conducted a thorough analysis of current Virginia anti-trafficking laws, including § 18.2- 47(B) Abduction for Forced Labor, § 18.2-59 Extortion, § 18.2-356 Receiving money for procuring person, § 18.2-48 Abduction, § 18.2-346(B) Solicitation of prostitution, § 18.2-347 Keeping, residing in or frequenting a bawdy place (brothel), § 18.2-348 Aiding prostitution, § 18.2-349 Using vehicles to promote prostitution, § 18.2-355 Taking person for prostitution , or consenting thereto, § 18.2-356 Receiving money for procuring person, § 18.2-357 Receiving money from earnings of prostitute, § 18.2-374.1 Production of child pornography, and others.  Ms. Kulpa reminded those in attendance that while none of these laws use the words “human trafficking,” they are all useful tools in arresting and prosecuting human traffickers.

Peggy Roberts spoke about human trafficking from an illegal immigration vantage point.  She explained the differences between the S, T, and U visas, which could be used to help victims of trafficking.  She also shared a couple personal stories regarding forced labor that she has seen while on the job.

Brian Hood covered many court cases that have helped define the issue of human trafficking, some of which he had worked on.  Some of the cases included: U.S. v. Sabhanin, U.S. v. Farrell, U.S. v. Ubeozor, U.S. v. Afolabi, and a RICO case U.S. v. Askarkhodjaev.

The meeting was closed by the FBI and plans are in the works for the next Working Group meeting.


Sara attends IJM’s Global Prayer Gathering

The Global Prayer Gathering (GPG) began for me in my living room on Friday evening, watching Gary Haugen, Founder of International Justice Mission (IJM), give his session talk to the 1,000 attendees at the Sheraton Hotel in Tyson’s Corner and also the millions like me who were watching via Live Feed.

Gary Haugen shared that Psalm 37 encourages us to face the facts that the bare knuckle, smash mouth fight for justice around the world is REAL, and it is a matter of life and death. We were also encouraged to be patient fighters in prayer, and that when we pray we are releasing God’s power into the world by our asking. His talk was very inspiring, and the worship that followed moved me to tears. I could not wait until 5am when I would wake up and make my way in the darkness of the morning to Tyson’s Corner to join the GPG for the Saturday and Sunday sessions.

Upon arrival I was greeted by many who I call friends now from IJM, while also meeting many new faces from all over the USA who came together for the same purpose. To pray for those around the world who are in slavery and to pray with faith for the end of slavery in our lifetime.

The first session of the morning  began with my good friend Christa Hayden proclaiming that we will not win this fight for justice apart from God and His word and fellowship with Him. She implored us that we need to take evil seriously and we need to take God seriously. We need to pray with all boldness and fervency and that the victims of oppression, abuse and slavery deserve our faith filled fervent prayers for their release and freedom!

After the plenary session, attendees had an amazing chance to visit with every IJM field office in separate conference rooms throughout the hotel. Each room focused on a specific country that IJM was working in and had investigators from each respective country sharing real time prayer requests with attendees. Groups of attendees spent 30 minutes in each room as we prayed individually, in groups, out loud and cried out for freedom of prisoners, for safety for the investigators and for favor with the justice systems in those countries.

It was during one of the prayers sessions in the room representing Cebu, Philippines where God truly heard our prayers and performed a miracle. The investigator present received a text from Cebu that his team was undergoing a live investigation and the room began to fill with fervent prayers for the investigators involved with the mission and for the girls’ safety.

That evening while we were joined together once again for worship and prayer, the service was interrupted to announce that the mission was a success and that dozens upon dozens of girls were rescued from the LARGEST BROTHEL/KARAOKE BAR IN CEBU!! The roof about fell off when 1,000 voices began to praise God for his faithfulness and goodness!! It was amazing to be a part of that moment and I am still thanking God for His goodness and faithfulness. He truly does love justice and calls us to join His heart for it as well.

Sunday we were joined together for our last session where we took communion together and reflected on what God had done that weekend. I came back from that conference with a renewed heart, vision and understanding of the power and importance of prayer. Without prayer and daily fellowship with God, we will NOT win this battle for the ending of slavery in our lifetime.

Will you join in this fight?

– Sara Pomeroy, Director

Not I but Christ….

I think that most days we make it without having to rely on God to get us through the day, or so we think; we go about our days with our to do lists, and if you are like me its all in your head. April 12 gave me a whole new perspective of what it meant to walk in His strength…..  A few months ago the alumni chapter of Delta Sigma Theta asked RJI to come and speak at their Spring Forum, I agreed to be the speaker.  The two days before the forum I used every available moment (which don’t come often) to prepare; because I am not a stranger to speaking in front of people I wasn’t terribly nervous but I have to say I always get a little shaken up before I speak, so I needed to be sure I had everything mapped out. The nature of an all volunteer organization makes it impossible to pay the bills without another job, and mine happens to be working with small children, while they are sleeping I focus on RJI.  That day we could not get the presentation to download to my computer, I found out that the location was moved and we would no longer have power point capabilities so I would have to completely change my approach, and the children didn’t sleep as long as I hoped they would so I was trying to figure all of this out while taking care of them….. I also had to figure out how to get to the other side of town during rush hour in less than 45 minutes….. It’s interesting that the deeper we all get into this issue of advocating for those that do not have a voice of their own the more we see the hand of God guiding us and opening doors we could have never imagined. In the midst of all the craziness and with the help of Anna Hurley I figured out the technological problems changed up my speaking approach and got there on time. On the way there I found myself asking God to be with me and to guide the presentation, because on top of everything else I wasn’t feeling well and I knew that I needed His strength to get me through.  When I got there I learned that my fellow speakers were a Virginia senator, a judge, and the president of a well known advocacy organization on Virginia…..  Needless to say I felt a little out of place, thankfully, I didn’t learn any of that until we were introduced so I didn’t really have time to let my nerves get the best of me.  During the presentation I mentioned our core values: awareness, education, advocacy, prevention and prayer, I expounded on the ways that we are living them out in what we do at RJI.  When I talked about the advocacy piece I mentioned the bills that we presented at our lobby day back in February and are waiting to be signed by the Governor, then I went on with each of the other values.  After the presentation the senator who was sitting next to me leaned over and asked if those bills would put Virgina where we need to be as far as our laws against human trafficking; since I also mentioned that Virginia is one of the states in the country with the worst laws against slavery. I told him that they were a good start but they were not enough, and then I remembered that I earlier that day in the midst of all the commotion I printed the bills out and had them with me! ( I normally don’t do that because I try and do my part for the planet and all)  I highlighted the bills and handed them to the senator and he asked if he could keep them, and I said yes sir!  We had a time of question and answer that went really well, at the end of the forum the president of the chapter got up and said that she was shocked that this was an issue in our city.  After the meeting was over the president of the well known advocacy center came up to me and said, “The senator and I would like to work with your organization.” He went on to tell me about some of the “small” issues that they took on and brought to light in the community, he also went on to tell me about the church connections that would be available to us because of their connections. It was a success!  The more I reflected on this event the more I realized that it was not because I am this amazingly charismatic speaker (which I can assure you I am not) or because the information was terribly compelling, it was because we serve a God of justice that is committed to rescuing the weak and this is His fight not ours, it is His strength, power and vision that we depend on and that empowers us to “Love mercy, Do Justice and walk humbly with our God”.

-Lea Whitehurst, Church Partnership Coordinator

February & March FACE

The past couple months with FACE have been so much fun and this semester is flying by!

In February, we focused on injustice from several different perspectives. First the students discussed how they see injustice in their own lives and then we shared a video of a Florida teenage girl’s own story of trafficking. We also talked about different fundraising options and had them be the first contributors to their school collage.

A few weeks ago we held our March FACE meeting, which focused on legislative advocacy. Everyone’s favorite teaching tool, School House Rock, taught us how a bill becomes a law and then one of our student volunteers from the University of Richmond expanded upon the lesson and facilitated our Q&A for the day. We also learned how to find out who our legislators are and then Janet Polarek, Secretary of the Commonwealth, taught our students how to write a letter to their representatives. At the end of the day all of the students worked together to write thank-you posters to Gov. McDonnell in preparation for him signing the three recent VA human trafficking bills.

Support Federal Bill on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking

Virginia has made leaps and bounds this year legislatively on a state level, and now we need your support on a federal level. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) are major supporters of legislation against minor sex trafficking and are reintroducing a bill that will establish a grant program to support victims. Please call your senators today in support of S.596, Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence & Victim Support Act. Below you will find facts about the bill provide by Shared Hope International.

  • Status: Referred to Senate Judiciary Committee (effective 3/18/2011)
  • It will provide $2m to $2.5m a year in funding to six state and local pilot projects to serve and shelter child victims of sex trafficking.
  • Applying entities must have a multidisciplinary, collaborative plan to combat the sex trafficking of minors.
  • 67% of funds must be used for direct services and shelter for victims.
  • Funds can be used to increase law enforcement efforts to combat the sex trafficking of children.
  • This is a bipartisan bill.
  • The legislation is sponsored by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX).

To track this bill, please visit here. Contact Warner here or call him at 202-224-2023.