Virginia’s elected officials don’t agree about much. But they do share one common interest across the partisan divide: fighting human trafficking. Even in our hyper-partisan world, Democrats and Republicans still can unite over the proposition that sexual enslavement and exploitation is a bad thing.
In October of 2018, the Human Trafficking Institute released a report in which Virginia ranked sixth in the nation for active human trafficking cases. That comes from the Virginia Tech Collegiate Times. According to Sen Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, the National Human Trafficking Hotline reports that there were more than 950 reported cases of human trafficking between December 2007 and June 2017.
Do a Google search for “Virginia human trafficking,” however, and see what results you get. Most reporting on the subject comes from local TV stations. Virginia’s major newspapers have produced almost nothing worthy of note. Indeed, in the top four pages of search results, the only report listed from the Richmond Times-Dispatch was an article describing how the Henrico County police chief debunked social media reports of human trafficking in Short Pump.
If you want to know more about this silent social crisis, check out the latest issue of the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association’s VHHA Review, the entirety of which focuses on human trafficking. This edition recounts horrifying stories of trafficking conveyed to Virginia hospital personnel; describes what Virginia lawmakers, both Republican and Democratic, have done to strengthen human trafficking laws; and discusses what hospitals are doing to fight the scourge. Kudos to the VHHA communications staff — Julian Walker and Lindsey Lanham — for bringing attention to the issue.
I can’t mind-read the thoughts of Virginia’s newspaper editors and reporters, so I can’t tell you why they have given only modest attention to this tragedy. My suspicion is that they may be put off by the fact that icky cultural conservatives have played such a prominent role in highlighting the phenomenon, and it probably doesn’t help that the Trumpster jumped on the human-trafficking bandwagon earlier this year. Wouldn’t want to legitimize a “conservative” issue, would we?
Maybe the issue would get more attention if someone pointed out the powerful social justice angle: The victims of human trafficking are disproportionately black and Hispanic girls. Take a look at this chart, based upon Connecticut data, published by Love146, an anti-trafficking group:
Says Love146: “Due to the disproportionate number of children of color who are trafficked each year, human trafficking is a racial justice issue. It is time that we begin to have a comprehensive conversation about this matter in order to identify the root causes and be proactive about dismantling systems that perpetuate this crime.”
Sounds like a good conversation to have. Maybe the Washington Post, RTD, and other Virginia newspapers will figure out one day how to work human trafficking into their list of editorial priorities. Until then, we can be thankful that elected Virginia Democrats have gotten the message and they’re working with Republicans to get things done.There are currently no comments highlighted.