Last week, I was given the opportunity to attend a small conference about human trafficking in Virginia. (Thank you to the ladies of my church who made it possible for me to attend!) The training was sponsored by the 24th Judicial District Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Inc. Speakers included a Virginia Assistant Attorney General, a survivor of domestic minor sex trafficking, a special agent from the Department of Homeland Security, and a special agent from the FBI.
This training conference was different than others in which I’ve participated in that many of those in attendance already had a basic knowledge of human trafficking, what it is, and how it happens. This meant we were free to discuss more in-depth topics, such as laws related to prosecution of those involved in trafficking in persons and the strategies being used by law enforcement to find victims and their traffickers. I found that much of the human trafficking taking place in Virginia is not sex trafficking, but labor trafficking related to agriculture; that the sex trafficking that is prevalent in this area is mostly hotel-based escort services; and that there are NO rehabilitative homes for victims of human trafficking in the entire Commonwealth.
I was also privileged to hear trafficking survivor Holly Austin Smith read from her forthcoming book and speak about her experience. This was important in helping me remember that, although many survivors’ stories have similar elements to those of other victims, each story belongs to an individual and has its own details that make it unique. It’s important to remember that, although we may speak about victims and survivors as a group of people, it will not do to forget to focus on the individual. Each girl or boy, young lady or young man has something special about him or her that no one else has, a characteristic that is not quite like the “typical” characteristics of those with whom we may group him or her. When the numbers become overwhelming and the estimated 27 million people seems like it’s just too much, I must remember the one and focus on making a difference for her.
What have you done to help one person this week?