November 8, 2018
Written By: Kaitlyn Skarstein
The start of slavery in 1619 tore America to shreds and redefined our future as a country. As we look back on those horrible times today in our history classes, we often think to ourselves, “Why did no one stand up or do anything?” Yet, a lot of times the same people who ask that question today are the ones who are allowing human trafficking to happen right in front of their own eyes by not doing anything to help fight this injustice.
Human trafficking is defined as modern-day slavery that involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. Human trafficking is broken up into three groups: sex trafficking, sex and labor trafficking, and labor trafficking. According to the FBI, “Human trafficking, believed to be the third-largest criminal activity in the world, is a form of human slavery which must be addressed at the interagency level”. Human trafficking is not just a global issue, it is something that is happening right here in Virginia. In 2018, the National Human Trafficking Hotline reported 98 cases of human trafficking and have received 191 calls about it just in Virginia this year. Since 2007, there have been 4,248 calls and 1,025 cases in Virginia, but a large majority of people are still naïve and uninformed of the epidemic that is going on.
In Lynchburg there is an organization called Freedom 4/24 whose mission is to “bring freedom and justice to victims and survivors of sexual exploitation and human trafficking through raising awareness and education and providing financial support for frontline organizations working to end these forms of modern-day slavery”. Freedom 4/24 was started by a college-aged student, just like most of us, who was passionate about making a difference in the world after seeing the red light district in Bangkok, Thailand.
I was given the opportunity to volunteer for this incredible nonprofit organization last year and it changed my perspective on human trafficking. I was able to fight against and bring awareness to this issue through working the Run 4 Their Lives race right here on Liberty’s campus. This is an event where people from the community come out and run a 5K in support of the women and children enslaved, while becoming more educated. I think the coolest thing about this event is that each person writes a girl’s name on their arm to represent who they are running this race for. For example, I wrote Fa’s name on my arm. Fa is from Samut Sakhorn, which is southwest of Bangkok, and she was working in the red light district to be able to support her family financially after her father left. Her friend told her about Home of New Beginnings, which is a “holistic relational ministry in Bangkok and Pattaya, Thailand, that seeks to address the spiritual, emotional, physical, and educational needs of women and children who desire to leave the sex trade. It is a place of safety and hope that builds trust and community around faith-centered healing and education”, and ever since then her life was changed because she left the sex slavery business.
Freedom 4/24 puts on the Run 4 Their Lives race every single year in a few different locations, including Lynchburg! The race will be in April and I encourage you to be a part of making a difference in fighting against human trafficking by participating in this race, whether you walk or run. Another way you can support this mission is by donating $24 each month to this organization. Freedom 4/24 has its name because you can bring freedom to women and child being trafficked for just $24 per month. By giving $24 per month you can provide 1 week of education, 2 weeks of counseling, 3 weeks of housing, and 4 weeks of food. Freedom 4/24 is an inspiring organization that does so much for the fight against human trafficking and I urge you to get involved with this organization or another one like it.
We get to decide what our country looks like in the next few years because we are the future. Do you want your children to read about human trafficking in their textbooks and wonder why you did not fight for children their age being sexually and physically exploited? I encourage you to step out and stand up for women and men enslaved in human trafficking. You can do this by spreading awareness of this crisis or getting involved in an anti-human trafficking organization such as Freedom 4/24.