When I heard of human trafficking, I always assumed it was taking place somewhere else.
That was a “third world” problem, I thought, not something we need to worry about in Warrenton, Virginia.
But I was wrong.
It’s a widespread, worldwide problem and it’s right here, right around the corner from all of us.
On Thursday, May 2nd, pastors, ministry staff, law enforcement personnel, and other community leaders gathered at Airlie, a Warrenton, Virginia hotel for the National Day of Prayer.
During the breakfast, the attendees learned about the ever-growing epidemic that is human trafficking in the United States and what they can do to help.
Local pastors offered a series of prayers: prayers for churches, for traffickers, buyers, the abused, for the unborn, and for legislators and law enforcement officials.
Bill Woolf, Executive Director of Just Ask Prevention Project, spoke to the group about how he has found that safeguarding communities through partnerships, like ones with local churches, to be most effective.
The foundational belief of Just Ask is that well-informed citizens will decrease sex traffickers’ ability to operate in local communities, ensuring that victims and survivors feel safe to come forward and ask for help.
Over the past year, Just Ask Prevention has partnered with several organizations in Fauquier County, including the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office, the Warrenton Aquatic and Recreation Facility, the Warrenton Rotary Club, BWell Today for Tomorrow and local businesses and churches.
To date, Just Ask has worked with close to 900 organizations and led numerous training sessions around the country — they’ve also developed a school-age curriculum. Woolf emphasized that the greatest asset in the fight against human trafficking is the community members and churches.
There are numerous organizations in every state that work to end human trafficking, help victims and make citizens aware of what is happening right under their noses.
The local church can make a big impact by educating their congregants on this growing epidemic and working with government leaders and law enforcement to help spread the message that they will not stand for this behavior.
Human trafficking is the act of compelling a person to engage in sexual acts or forced labor, usually young girls or women, but can involve young boys and men as well.
It is nothing short of modern-day slavery, usually for the sole purpose of providing “disposable” people for the deviant pleasures of evil men and women.
Human trafficking affects millions of people around the world — including right here in the United States, and is commonly regarded as one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time. Human trafficking affects every community in the United States across all age, gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic backgrounds.
Traffickers are in it purely for the profit, and profit they do. This form of modern-day slavery has reached near epidemic levels in the United States. Trafficking is exploitation-based and does not require movement across borders or any type of transportation, these facts set it apart from human smuggling.
The statistics are astounding, and it is only getting worse.
Current estimates are that some $32 billion a year is raked in making human trafficking the fastest-growing organized crime activity in the United States.
And the saddest part of all is most of this profit is money made at the expense of the most vulnerable among us – young children and teenagers, many of whom pay with their lives.
It is estimated that nearly 70 percent of human trafficking transactions now take place online. In 2016, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children estimated that 1 in 6 endangered runaways reported to them were likely sex trafficking victims, and the Department of Justice has reported that more than half of sex-trafficking victims are 17 years old or younger.
If left unchecked, human trafficking will continue to flourish where traffickers can make substantial monetary gains with little risk of getting caught or losing their profits.
The saddest part is that so many of us don’t realize that this is happening right in our own towns.
To learn more about Just Ask you can visit their website www.justaskprevention.com They have a number of resources to get your church well on the way to helping to combat this horrific activity.