When we opened the first comprehensive human trafficking program in Central Virginia in 2017 for adult female survivors forced into sex work, we knew that our work with human trafficking survivors was just beginning.

We are proud to announce the expansion of our work to serve minors who have been forced into labor and sexual exploitation.

Alexandria “Ali” Wall, LPC joined the Safe Harbor staff as Human Trafficking Program Manager on February 1. Ali was most recently with the Office of the Attorney General as Case Manager for Minor Victims of Sex Trafficking where she worked with these young trafficking survivors. Ali will continue to work with these young clients along with new clients at Safe Harbor. She will also bring her expertise to overseeing case management and therapeutic programming for adults in our program.

In her role, Ali identifies immediate needs (medical and other basic needs), secures long term therapeutic services so these clients understand the victimization they have experienced, attends court hearings, and provides socialization activities and outings to help them re-engage with the public in a safe and healthy way.

Child trafficking is the buying and selling of kids under the age

of 18 for the purpose of exploitation, perpetrated by force, fraud or coercion. Child trafficking happens in all 50 U.S. states and is happening right here in our community.

It is a crisis that has only deepened due to COVID-19. As the U.S. State Department’s 2022 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report points out, the instability and lack of access to critical services caused by the pandemic have made more people vulnerable to exploitation. Traffickers have capitalized on that instability, adjusting their business models to the ‘new normal.’ There are also fears that COVID-19 has made the task of identifying victims of human trafficking even more difficult.

According to Polaris, (www. polarisproject.org) 1 in 7 of children reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children become victims of sex trafficking. Of this amount, 88 percent were coming out of the foster care system. Two out of every three child victims are girls.

Sometimes sold by a family member or an acquaintance, often lured by false promises of education and a “better” life — the reality is that these trafficked and exploited children are subjected to a world of terror, violence, and ill-treatment.

As a result, children are forced to drop out of school, risk their lives and are deprived of what every child deserves – a future.

To support our work with these youngest of survivors, we are asking for donations of Visa gift cards. As part of the program, socialization activities provide the opportunity for youth to re-engage with society in a healthy, positive, re-affirming way through outings to the movies, trips to the local ice cream shop, and “girls day” activities like mani-pedis.

Visa gift cards will provide Ali and her staff with the flexibility to tai- lor activities to each young client regardless of their location in the state.

To purchase a visa gift card, click her https://usa.visa.com/ pay-with-visa/. Gift cards can be sent via email to katherine@ safeharborshelter.com or mailed to Safe Harbor, PO Box 17996 Richmond VA 23226.