Kate Miller, Virginia Free Citizen
Anti-human trafficking organization, Richmond Justice Initiative (RJI), is spreading a message of human trafficking prevention through its signature, award-winning Prevention Project® program. A team comprised of survivors of teen human trafficking, law enforcement, educators, and anti-trafficking experts have developed this program. The Prevention Project curriculum was designed to reach middle and high school students in their classrooms, educating teens about human trafficking in an effort to not only raise awareness but also protect them from this growing global crime.
According to the US Department of Justice, the average age of entry for someone forced into sex slavery is between 11 and 14 for girls and boys, and the Center for Missing and Exploited Children states that 300,000 US children are thought to be at risk for sexual exploitation each year.
In addition, RJI explains that human trafficking is now the second largest criminal enterprise in the world, generating roughly $150 billion a year worldwide (International Labour Organization) with an estimated nearly 36 million modern-day slaves (Global Slavery Index 2014).
Jessica Willis, the Director of Prevention Education, said prevention plays a key role in ending this crime.
However, Willis said the prevention education program would not be possible without the financial and advocacy support of individuals, churches, businesses and other organizations.
In 2012, RJI applied for a contribution from AT&T. As criteria for approval, the initiative needed to have an educational and technological focus. RJI originally received a $25,000 contribution from AT&T, which was used to establish the foundation of what the Prevention Project program is today. In Fall 2012, RJI began a pilot program of the Prevention Project at Hermitage High School in Richmond.
Virginia Free Citizen covers issues your local news doesn’t
We’ll respect your inbox and keep you informed. Our goal is a free, prosperous and secure Virginia.
In 2013, RJI received a $10,000 contribution from AT&T, and again in 2014.
“We were honored,” Willis said about AT&T’s financial support, “which continues to be vital and instrumental in helping to continue to develop the program and reach more and more teens.”
Vince Apruzzese, regional vice president for AT&T in Virginia, stated in a press release that AT&T is devoted to the fight against human trafficking.
“Human trafficking is a serious issue in Virginia and in the U.S., and RJI is leading the way on prevention and awareness-raising activities,” Apruzzese stated. “They’re [RJI] doing great work, and we’re pleased to support their efforts.”
Since the inception of the Prevention Project curriculum, the program has spread into schools and programs throughout Virginia as well as in North Carolina, Texas, and Oregon.
“Funding initiatives have played a vital part in the expansion of the program,” Willis said. “(Through appropriate funding) the Prevention Project has grown from a pilot program to a program that has garnered interest throughout the U.S. When you apply targeted strategic action through prevention education, then change is able to be made in society.”
According to Willis, RJI is continually seeking support from businesses and individuals with a desire to help expand the reach and growth of the Prevention Project program with the goal of preventing and ending human trafficking in our communities.
“Businesses can be champions in improving social issues,” Willis said. “When a business gets involved in a social issue, awareness grows and solutions are supported through their partnership.”
RJI stresses the importance of the expansion of prevention education.
“Prevention education is crucial to protecting our teens and communities,” Willis said.
To get involved in supporting teen human trafficking prevention education, please contact email@example.com.