RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Chris Lane knows first hand the pain human trafficking can cause. While Lane’s oldest son wasn’t a victim of human trafficking, his involvement with the crisis while working for a landscaping company down in Virginia Beach cost him his life.
“The landscaping company was connected to a few nail salons and they were targeting minors who didn’t have a lot of work experience, and some of the young men and young ladies were being taken to the hotels to service older adults,” said Lane. “The guy who got him involved - one his friends who were already in the business - recruited my son and that’s kind of where it ended for him.”
Since then, the loss of his son has inspired Lane to fight against human trafficking. All week, Lane has been protesting across Richmond with dozens of others to get his message out to as many people as possible to shed light on what is very much a hidden problem in the commonwealth.
“The main thing is to raise awareness,” said Lane
According to the latest data from the Polaris National Human Trafficking Hotline, over 11,000 human trafficking situations were identified in 2019 alone. Over 63,000 situations have been recorded nationally since 2007.
McKayla Burnett works with Safe Harbor, an organization that provides support for survivors of sexual and domestic violence and human trafficking to help them overcome their situations.
“When you look at our state, the hotspots for trafficking are Northern Virginia, the Hampton Roads area, and Richmond,” Burnett said.
Burnette says Richmond’s proximity to the interstate makes it one of the worst spots for human trafficking, but the issue doesn’t always get the spotlight it needs.
“If you drive up and down and look at some of the things that put a road down the middle of these communities have done, it’s kind of sad,” said Lane.
“A lot of our survivors and victims that we work with were not physically forced into trafficking, they were actually manipulated and emotionally coerced,” said Burnett. “It’s hard to have very reliable statistics because it’s such a hidden problem due to the shame that victims feel.”
Burnett says the best way to get involved with combatting human trafficking is to reach out to the national hotlines when you see someone who may be a victim
Safe Harbor also provides free shelter, case management and counseling for survivors locally.
If you think you see or know someone who may be a victim of human trafficking, you’re asked to call the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
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