.- In a recent Virginia forum, U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) highlighted the largely unknown problem of human trafficking within the United States, offering suggestions for how to fight “modern day slavery.”
While many see slavery as a problem of history, Wolf said, “slavery, of a different sort, still exists today.”
He also stressed that human trafficking is a local issue, with girls being held in sex slavery within the state of Virginia.
Wolf delivered his comments at a May 3 meeting with state and local officials in McLean, Va. The gathering, hosted by state delegates Barbara Comstock and Tim Hugo, was aimed at discussing ways to fight human trafficking in the state.
According to the non-profit group Shared Hope International, over 100,000 American children are exploited through pornography or prostitution annually.
The congressman remarked that he has “seen credible reports of nearly 80 establishments” in Northern Virginia that serve as centers for human trafficking and exploitation.
“We walk and drive by them every day,” he said.
Wolf listed the internet and gangs as major components in the spread and success of human trafficking. He stated that sites such as Facebook and Backpage.com permit individuals to meet and take advantage of victims.
The congressman also expressed concern that the opening of a casino in the Maryland National Harbor would lead to a growth in human trafficking in the region.
Stressing the need for action, Wolf said that he has “repeatedly asked Attorney General Holder and the Department of Justice to provide an analysis of whether there are sufficient laws on the books to prosecute the type of activity that Backpage.com engages in” and to take steps to “fully equip law enforcement to tackle this problem” if necessary.
So far, he said that his requests have not been acknowledged by the attorney general.
Gangs also provide an avenue for the victimization of young women and girls, he continued, praising efforts by groups such as the Gang Response Intervention Team to help educate individuals in the community and ensure that if abuse does occur, “women and girls who have been victimized do not fall through the cracks.”
Wolf recognized the critical role of government, particularly law enforcement, in ending human trafficking and supporting victims with important social services.
However, he also stressed the need for community involvement through “churches, non-profits and other civil society organizations,” saying that these institutions “stand in the gap and do the hard work of bringing hope and restoration in the aftermath of unimaginable exploitation, abuse and fear.”