Welcome to today’s edition of The V Word

Last week I talked about soliciting sex and prostitution. I am continuing that conversation today with a focus on human trafficking.

So here’s a question for those out there. Have you ever tried to coerce or force someone into having sex for money? Has someone ever tried to force or coerce you into having sex for money? Remember my story last week about how often I was approached? How often other women and trans-women were approached? How often children are approached?

My story last week was about the more open and brazen means to recruit someone into sex work. And were you thinking just adults are coerced? And did you imagine the stereotypical idea of a prostitute hanging on a street corner, with a pimp as her manager? You know, the TV image.

Human trafficking for sex is way broader and more pervasive than movies show, and involves more children than people are aware of. Where is this happening you may be asking by now? Not in Richmond you may be hoping. Yes in Richmond. In fact Richmond is listed along with Virginia Beach and Northern Virginia with the highest rates. While it may be focused on the larger cities with major highways, it happens all over the state.

Next you may want to know how it happens.

Traffickers look for people who have vulnerabilities: victims of sexual abuse, children living in poverty, children marginalized in our society by gender, race and economic class, and people who have been made vulnerable after natural disasters.

How does a Trafficker find vulnerable people: You probably did guess this one – through social networking, along with other means. If the parent is already being used as a sex worker, often the children are vulnerable to exploitation.

What happens next, once the Trafficker identifies someone? A process called grooming starts, promises are made to lure someone vulnerable. Another way is for a parent to pimp out their own child or outright sell the child. Yes you heard right, people sell their children and not just because they are evil people but also because they are desperate.

Once in, the victim is used in multiple ways, and not just on the street but through hotels, clubs, escort services, etc.

How does the Trafficker maintain control: isolation from others, shame, physical violence or threats of violence, drugs.

I know you will ask: why doesn’t the victim run away or ask for help? Remember the list of control tactics? All of those create fear and dependency and it’s extremely effective.

How many in Virginia: The Polaris Project reported 375 in a 6 month period. It is suspected it is widely under reported, like most sexual or interpersonal crimes.

So what is Virginia doing? The Virginia General Assembly just passed legislation that harshens the penalties for people who solicit children for sex. It allows felony prosecution now and listing on the sex offender registry.

What are some of the current laws you can use to prosecute such crimes?

§ 18.2-48. Abduction with intent to extort money or for immoral purpose, to extort money or pecuniary benefit, with intent to defile – for the purposes of prostitution, child pornography… is a Class 2 felony which can offer up life imprisonment.

18.2-46 Prostitution: commercial sexual conduct, commercial exploitation of a minor by offering money or its equivalent for the purposes of engaging in sexual acts is a Class 5 or 6 felony.

18.2-355 Taking, detaining, etc a person for prostitution, or being a parent or guardian consents to a person to be taken for prostitution or sex work is guilty of pandering and is a Class 4 felony.

Virginia’s new law will help close the gap and make it easier to prosecute offenders.

Need help or more information? Here are some options…

For information on how to report in the Richmond, Virginia, USA area, you can call the non-emergency line at 804-646-5100, that is 804-646-5100 or go by a local police station office. The main Richmond office is located at 200 West Grace street.

Are you a victim or do you know someone who needs help: The Gray Haven Project is a local resource for survivors of human trafficking. Tel: 804.365.2529 or email to info@thegrayhaven.org

For help with counseling and advocacy, local rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters can provide services. In Virginia, USA, to find a center closest to you… you can call the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline, hosted by The Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance at 1-800-838-8238.

That is the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238.
Listening from outside of Virginia? You can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-800-373-7888 that is 1-800-373-7888 or text 233722

Want to share a story or ask a question? Email me at thevword.radio@gmail.com or tweet me at my twitter account: @preventviolence. You can read the transcript for this show and past shows on my blog at thevword.org

The V Word is recorded in the studios of WRIR-LP 97.3, read and produced by me, Carol Olson.

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