Church takes action to stop human trafficking

Published 9:50 pm Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The United Nations estimates there currently are 27 million slaves in the world. An estimated two million of them are children trafficked for sex.

Unbelievably, many of those slaves are right here in the United States, and even in Virginia. But a local church is hosting a concert this weekend to raise money to help stop human trafficking.

The “Stopping Traffic” concert will be held at Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church, 3488 Godwin Blvd., on Saturday. The doors open at 6:30 p.m. The entire $10 admission price goes toward The Gray Haven Project, a Richmond organization fighting human trafficking, educating the public about it and helping its victims.

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Bands playing at the concert include The Wandering, Thomas and the Farrahs, Fall Risk and To Come of Age. But the event is about more than just music, said Hayden Hill, director of Hope for Suffolk.

“This is a problem that’s right here,” she said. “It’s in our backyard, and it’s growing.”

Frequently, Hill said, pimps target girls who are from less-desirable home environments, “so it looks like a runaway case.” The girls are forced into sex work.

“She’s coerced,” Hill said. “She’s doing the work, but she’s not making the money, which is slavery.”

Nationwide, gangs are increasingly moving toward trafficking people rather than drugs or weapons because it is easier, cheaper and less dangerous, Hill added.

“There’s almost no barrier to get into that market,” she said. “That’s the big trend right now.”

Not all trafficking victims are forced into sex. Some provide domestic work or work in restaurants but never see any money because their traffickers keep their pay, ostensibly to pay off huge debts owed.

According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, Virginia ranked 10th between 2007 and 2010 for calls to the national trafficking hotline where the state was known.

“This will wreak havoc on our society if we allow this to go unchecked,” Hill said. “Refusing to face the facts isn’t going to solve anything.”

Hill encouraged people to come out to the concert to support The Gray Haven Project and find out more about how they can get involved.

“I just really encourage people to come out, support the event and to not continue to blind themselves or to remain ignorant of how big a problem this is,” Hill said.

The national trafficking hotline is 1-888-3737-888. It provides 24/7 confidential help and information.