Va. leaders hold town hall meeting on human trafficking - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Va. leaders hold town hall meeting on human trafficking

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McLEAN, Va. -

Human trafficking in our backyard. That was the title of a town hall meeting in McLean, Va., Friday hosted by northern Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf.

"I had some people come in from a church group saying, ‘Would you get involved in this bill that deals with (human trafficking) in Thailand,’" Rep. Wolf explains. "I said sure, but Tysons Corner too. Albania? Yeah, fine. But Annandale. I mean it's right here in river city."

Young women from overseas kept as servants. Teenage girls from local high schools recruited as prostitutes. All real scenarios that rarely get noticed.

But this week, the spotlight is shining. Yes, partly because of what happened at a property, coincidentally in McLean, owned by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. But also because of the town hall meeting scheduled some time ago.

Experts telling us the commercial sex trade in northern Virginia should make all parents sit up and listen.

They say if your daughter goes to school or spends time on Facebook, she is vulnerable to sex traffickers.

"They are looking for the status updates from girls who are saying they just had a fight with their dad or they feel like they don't look pretty," says Sara Pomeroy of the Richmond Justice Initiative.

"A former trafficker who's actually in jail in northern Virginia," Pomeroy adds, "sent over 300 inbox messages to girls on Facebook. 20 responded and almost all of them were lured into trafficking and slavery."

Pomeroy says her group goes into classrooms to warn students of the dangers of pimps preying on teens with low self-esteem.

Fairfax County Police Detective Bill Woolf says much of the teenage prostitution in northern Virginia is tied to gangs.

"Gangs really try to focus on this concept of family," says Woolf. "And so they tell these girls, 'Hey, you're going to be part of our family.’"

And just this week, we learned of an alleged case of forced labor at a McLean compound owned by the Saudi government. Police alerted to the property after a young woman got caught trying to escape by squeezing through a gap in the front gate.

"And unfortunately I see a lot of these young girls," says Dr. Courtney Gaskins, who runs Youth For Tomorrow - founded by former Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs. "(These girls) are coming from countries where there's a lot of abuse or poverty, and those are the girls that are vulnerable to labor and sex trafficking, and they're just coming here to better their lives."


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