The Commission on Human Trafficking Prevention and Survivor Support found enforcement hasn’t been consistent in the state, and said a regional approach would better coordinate law-enforcement efforts. The commission’s report also said it’s important to seek accountability — not only from traffickers, but those who benefit from criminal conduct and the people who create a demand for this vulnerable workforce.
Alex Delgado, public policy manager for ECPAT-USA, a nonprofit that works to stop child trafficking, said he thinks the report should have addressed eliminating life sentences without parole for minors.
“It would definitely be a big step forward in helping support survivors of human trafficking,” he said, “especially minors who were forced to do criminal acts by their trafficker, that are then given life in jail even though they’re minors, and it’s clearly something that was done under duress and manipulation.”
In 2020, Virginia was awarded a grant to develop services for underage victims of sex trafficking. These include referral and case-management services, a dedicated residential facility for juveniles, and free legal services for young survivors of trafficking.
The commission’s report also described how Virginia can provide more equitable access to care for trafficking survivors. It suggested partnering with nonprofits and the private sector to increase resources for their mental and behavioral health needs. Now that the report is out, Delgado stressed that sincere action must be taken on its findings.
“You simply can’t just have the report and then not take any of those steps forward,” he said. “It needs to come with action, and both the governor and the Virginia Legislature need to make sure they’re introducing this legislation, and following through with what the commission has put forward.”
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, 140 cases of human trafficking were identified in Virginia in 2021, involving 179 victims.