When I started researching for my book, Angels Cry, I expected nothing more than to find a few details that I could sprinkle into my fiction, but what I discovered, shifted my paradigm. When we think about human trafficking, we think about larger cities with worse reputations; we think about foreign and faraway places. Most of us never consider that it could be happening in our backyards.
Human trafficking is illegal, both according to state and federal law. The Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution abolished slavery, in any form. Yet, this has not quashed the ever rising tide of illegal brothels and sex slaves. But, human trafficking isn’t limited to the sex industry.
What I’ve noticed over the months it has taken for me to create and finish my story is an explosion of information about human trafficking. (A simple Google search will produce pages upon pages of information.)For example, in November, a Taskforce was announced to combat the human trafficking in the western part of the state. Legal entities have received mandated power to tackle it. For example Virginia Code §9.1-102(55) states: "In conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General, advise law-enforcement agencies and attorneys for the Commonwealth regarding the identification, investigation, and prosecution of human trafficking offenses using the common law and existing criminal statutes in the Code of Virginia." Most recently, Style Magazine, in its December 3rd edition, also produced an amazing article offering insight into this heart-wrenching problem. The article, titled “Prisoners Among Us,” is a must read.
Knowledge is power and it will take all of us knowing what Human Trafficking is for us to combat it.
What is Human Trafficking?
According to the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, “The federal Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act defines human trafficking, in part, as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for the purposes of commercial sex acts or labor services through the use of force, fraud or coercion… A trafficked victim does not have to be moved or transported; only forced into a state of servitude.”
Who can be a victim?
As reported by the National Center for the Victims of Crimes, “Although the majority of labor trafficking victims are undocumented or qualified aliens, the majority of sex trafficking victims in the U.S. are U.S. citizens.” As such, we mustn’t necessary fear the evil from outside, but from within.
What should I keep an eye out for?
- Homes or apartments with inhumane living conditions;
- People whose communications and movements are always monitored or who have moved or rotated through multiple locations in a short amount of time;
How Can I Help?
The Virginia Chapter for National Organization for Women provides great resources for those involved in and for those who believe human trafficking is occurring. Due to this being a crime, one can always contact their local law enforcement and/or the FBI. The Virginia Chapter for National Organization for women suggests that you report suspected trafficking in Virginia to ICE, the FBI or the Virginia DOJ.
For additional reading, check out: . If you are interested in learning how you can help, please contact the Polaris Project for additional information; and if you are or know someone who is a victim of human trafficking, there is help available (both private and government assisted). The VADOJ provides a list of resources.
The above is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg that I haven't really even started to uncover. Who knows, maybe this will be a topic I’ll delve into in another book, but for now, I can’t help looking at the world around me with new eyes, and wondering who is truly helping their neighbor and who is just taking advantage of them.
Note: During this holiday season, please consider the plight of those living among us, and should you suspect human trafficking, reach out to law enforcement for assistance. Do NOT try to rescue someone on your own. Although we all would like to be an action hero, it's better to call in the professionals.
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