Soroptimists Improve Lives of Women, Girls
In January, Soroptimist International of Manassas sponsored a public awareness program to shine a light on a serious issue affecting women and girls in the Prince William area, and around the world: human and sex trafficking.
The event, held in the Verizon Auditorium on George Mason University's Prince William Campus, featured the documentary "Call + Response," followed by a panel of experts.
Kathleen Darabond, FBI Special Agent, Washington Field office, described how the agency works closely with local law enforcement to stop sex trafficking and curb gang activity in our area.
Captain Hans Mumm, US Army Retired, an expert in the area of modern day slave labor, related a story of a perpetrator who used Facebook like a shopping catalogue to find, "friend" and groom minors. He also proposed asking banks to donate foreclosed properties to be safe houses for women, turning their dead assets into tax deductions via 1040 form.
Dr. Courtney Gaskins, Youth for Tomorrow's Director of Program Services and Fay Phillips-LeSane, a Case Manager for Youth for Tomorrow, introduced the program's new Crisis Intervention Counseling Center, which opened this month at 2500 Hunter's Place in Woodbridge, as well as a safe house for trafficked girls that will be opened soon.
Accepting the Soroptimist 2011 Awards presented by club president Diane Bennett (left) are, from left: Lorene Head of Fauquier Faith Partners; Dotty Larsen and Anna Grevis of ACTS; Becky Goodman of Transitional Housing BARN; Deb Abbott of BEACON; Sabine Scholz of Fauquier Family Shelter; and Dr. Courtney Gaskins of Youth For Tomorrow.
Lisa Johnson-Firth, Esq., a principal attorney at Immigrants First, PLLC, an immigration and human rights law firm representing victims of sex trafficking, talked about the warning signs of trafficking – such as seeing someone walking without shoes in winter. She also asked the audience to be more aware of fair trade issues – if you are paying a low price for goods, such as $5 for a pair of shoes, think about whether someone in another country is being trafficked to manufacture those goods.
Megan Cesar, Case Manager, Restoration Ministries, talked about her program's compassionate response to men, women and children who have been caught up in the trap of sex trafficking. Many victims suffer from profound shame and guilt, extreme anxiety and fear, and self-destructive behavior.
The panelists offered suggestions – getting involved and being a positive role model, especially to young people after school. A common denominator in many victims is that the adults in their lives didn't have time for them.
Information tables in the lobby included Freedom 4/24 (www.freedom424.org) a group based in Lynchburg, Virginia, that provides a pathway to freedom for the sexually exploited through Christ-centered ministries that seek to rescue enslaved women and children. Group president Mike Zealand and his team heard about the Soroptimist event and drove four hours to participate.
Mike Zealand, president of Freedom 4/24 (www.freedom424.org) a group based in Lynchburg, Virginia, that provides a pathway to freedom for the sexually exploited through Christ-centered ministries that seek to rescue enslaved women and children.
Soroptimist International of Manassas is a non-profit service organization of business and professional women dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls in our local communities and throughout the world.
As part of the event, annual Soroptimist awards were given out to local organizations that work to improve the lives of women and girls in the local area. Award winners included ACTS/Turning Points, BEACON, Fauquier Faith Partners, Fauquier Family Shelter, Transitional Housing BARN and Youth for Tomorrow.
Soroptimist International of Manassas welcomes new members. For more information go to www.simanassas.org or contact club President Diane Bennett at firstname.lastname@example.org Donations to help improve the lives of women and girls in the local area are welcome at P.O. Box 2535, Manassas, VA 20108.
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