Local group rallies support to stop human trafficking

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Every year, the Department of Homeland Security receives thousands of reports of human trafficking cases, but many go unnoticed.

They say millions of men, women and children are trafficked in countries around the world every year and human trafficking has grown to a $32 billion dollar per year industry.

The organizer of a local group, Human Trafficking with Partners, says its time for that to stop.

“It’s not talked about, it’s a very uncomfortable subject because of the stigma that it carries,” says Paula Fillmore, “But it’s a very well-needed subject matter to be discussed.”

That’s why Fillmore and a team of people organized the workshop at the Murray center in Norfolk on Saturday afternoon.

“Our community is caught up in it now so we need to work with our community here in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and others so that we can allow people to identify that face that will be involved in human trafficking.,” says Deacon Theophilus Lawton.

Participants heard from a variety of people, including a mother/daughter duo who spoke how relationships can affect human trafficking.

“What our desire to do is to help those who have a healthy relationship already to maintain and sustain that relationship. And those who are struggling, help them to get better skills and to cope better with everything that’s going on.,” says Brittny Gainey, who presented with her mother.

Representatives from local shelters were also on hand — there to offer support and insight.

“We’re clocking somewhere close to about 200 in the last two weeks or month that have been calling Barrett Haven to get involved or for a place to live. So this is an area where we need to have more focus on and get more people involved,” says C. Richard Gillcrese, Barrett Haven shelter executive director.

But the royal blue — the color of human trafficking — showed just how much support is growing.

Representatives from the Norfolk Commonwealth’s attorney’s office and the Virginia attorney general’s office also spoke in a panel.