Beth Seremet- Secretary
Michelle Crawford Rickert from the Richmond Justice Initiative came to visit Regent University per our request to speak as part of Human Rights Week. The Richmond Justice Initiative (RJI) is a local hand of the International Justice Mission in DC and reminds activists slavery is not merely in an overseas brothel but in American middle schools, strip clubs, massage parlors, restaurants, and homes. America, the city on the hill, is not exempt from this atrocity.
Michelle’s presentation entitled, “Through the Looking Glass”, provided a clear picture of the global face of human trafficking and what we in Virginia can do about it on a local level and how to best interact with national initiatives combatting the global expanse of this situation.
Just to put it out there: Slavery as a phenomena was NOT abolished at the end of the Trans- Atlantic Slave Trade. The accepted number of slaves in the world today is 27 million… three TIMES the amount of slaves during that period. Slaves are made virtually invisible by their traffickers so they become equally disposable. Ironically, Michelle pointed out, America once had an underground network to FREE slaves, now, there is an underground coalition to keep people enslaved.
Secondly, she pointed out human trafficking is not an exclusively International Human Rights issue. It is a United States issue because approximately 17,500 slaves are trafficked into this country each year. Human trafficking is not exclusively an International Human Rights issue; it is a criminal justice issue because human trafficking is now the fastest growing international criminal act and second only to drug trafficking in the world. The same theory applies to both victims and perpetrators in that, if you find one, you find a ring. Explanation: when you go into a town/city an enslaved person is not going to immediately draw your attention as “out of place” because they’re trained/threatened to blend in. However, look closely enough, ask enough questions, slow your own agenda down enough and you’ll find one. Then you’ll find them all. Traffickers function in the same way. The same perpetrators involved in drug trafficking are often trafficking weapons and humans.
Virginia is in what is labeled, “The Dirty Dozen,” one of the 12 states that has the worst protective legislature on trafficking. Why? Michelle informs us from her own advocacy experience, “It’s too expensive”. Currently, only children 16 and younger are protected. Why won’t they add 17 year olds to the bill? The budget can’t afford it. Unacceptable.
This answer/ excuse is unacceptable and as we continue to talk to lawmakers, we are making this personal.
- We will use the disciplines we are studying to insert ourselves into this issue. Education. Communications. Theatre. Cinema-Television. Divinity. Government. Law. Religious Studies. Psychology and Counseling. Leadership.
- We will become aware of our surroundings. We will take the extra two seconds to evaluate situations that seem “off”, recognizing victims are too terrified to come forward on their own.
- We will become aware of product lines and become informed consumers so as not to fuel this corrupt enterprise. http://www.slavefree.com provides lists of what companies have risen to the occasion to ensure their products are not produced on the backs of slaves or funded by sex trafficking.
To insert yourself into this issue, the Richmond Justice Initiative is a wonderful place to begin. Visit their website: http://www.richmondjusticeinitiative.com