By EMILY HOLLINGSWORTH
When most people think of kidnapping or human trafficking, the film “Taken,” starring Liam Neeson, typically comes to mind. Most people do not think of pimping.
Yet pimping, or sex trafficking, is prevalent in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and thousands of kids and teenagers across the state are affected.
This was the theme behind the Evening of Human Trafficking Awareness, which took place on Friday, March 20 at The University of Mary Washington’s Center for Faith and Leadership.
The event was organized by the Central Virginia Justice Initiative, a faith-based organization that educates residents in Fredericksburg and surrounding areas about human trafficking and how to respond.
The event included music from Joy Lippard, who graduated from Liberty University in 2013. A singer and songwriter, Lippard produced an album, called “Set Free,” which brings awareness to human trafficking.
The event’s keynote speaker was the Director of Investigative Services at Courtney’s House, an organization that searches for victims of human trafficking and provides them with counseling and mentors. The organization also raises awareness about human trafficking in the Washington, D.C. metro area.
Courtney’s House is led by individuals who survived human trafficking and is the only survivor-run organization in the D.C. metro area. The Director of Investigative Services told the story of Courtney House’s founder, Tina Frundt.
Frundt was trafficked when she was eight years old and in foster care. When Frundt was adopted, she was approached by a man 15 years older than her who gained her trust and drove her to school. Then, asking her not to call her parents, he drove Frundt from her home in Chicago to his home in Ohio where he trafficked her and other young women.
According to the Director of Investigative Services, sex trafficking can be a profitable industry. An average pimp in the D.C. metro area can make $100,000 a week under the table by selling five children.
Human trafficking affects young men as well as young women, and 42 percent of children sold in the D.C. metro area are male.
Frundt was a victim of human trafficking for a long time before she founded Courtney’s House, but she works to pull young people from the same way of life she was a victim of.
“Never in my life did I think it was possible for my horrific past to impact a positive change in another person’s life,” stated Frundt on the Courtney’s House website.
As of now, Virginia is the only state in the U.S. that does not have laws against human trafficking. However, a law enforcing penalties specifically for commercial sex traffickers was passed by the Virginia General Assembly and sent to Gov. Terry McAuliffe to be signed.
A familiar face at the Center for Faith and Leadership has also taken up the cause to end human trafficking in Virginia. One of co-leaders at the Center, Gannon Sims, formerly worked as a public affairs officer with the U.S. Department of State’s anti-human trafficking office.
Michele Trampe, executive director of Central Virginia Justice Initiative, encouraged people to be aware of the signs of human trafficking
“Even if it’s just something doesn’t look right,” said Trampe. “It’s important that we all familiarize ourselves with these signs.”
The event was eye-opening for Kadeem Gittens, a sophomore business administration major and vice president of the Center for Faith and Leadership.
“I thought it was very informative,” said Gittens. “What they said will make a huge impact on our community and it should be heard.”