Groups Raising Awareness About Sex Trafficking in Central Va.

March 13, 2014

Sex trafficking is a global crisis, and Charlottesville is not immune.

The Arbor, a non-profit organization helping survivors of the illegal sex trade, held a workshop on Thursday in partnership with Creciendo Juntos to raise awareness about sex trafficking in Central Virginia.

According to Laurie Jean Seaman, Arbor's board president, last year there were at least 75 known cases of sex trafficking in Central Virginia and the area's north/south corridor makes it especially vulnerable.

"We see survivors of human trafficking in Charlottesville, Albemarle, the surrounding region, all the way up to Harrisonburg and along that highway route, as well as down 95 through Richmond," Seaman said.

During the workshop Seaman said gang-related sex trafficking is prevalent in Charlottesville, and often young girls are tricked into becoming escorts and are pimped online through Facebook.

"It's important that we educate the community about what's going about and maybe prevent something like this from happening in our community," said Creciendo Juntos chair Gloria Rockhold.

Seaman says resources are limited for sex trafficking survivors, so the Arbor plans on opening a shelter to provide counseling and job training for the young women. Tony Lin, an Arbor board member says the shelter won't open until next January, but they've already gotten calls from law enforcement asking to take victims in.

Lin says for now they are working on completing their fundraising goals and raising awareness that this crime is happening here.

"Modern day slavery is something that is illegal everywhere, but it’s happening everywhere and if you look for it, you can find it from the smallest city to the largest one," said Lin.

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