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Human Trafficking Training Series draws advocates from across state

By Staff | Jun 1, 2018

The West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services Inc. held the last of four informational workshops in its Human Trafficking Training Series in Shepherd University’s Student Center on Wednesday.

About 90 advocates attended the training, which educated them on the needs of trafficking victims, legal resources in the state, the current state of human trafficking in West Virginia and how to enroll their organizations with the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

“We’re the coalition of the state’s rape crisis centers, so we’re building up our attendees to respond to a variety of situations,” said FRIS State Coordinator Nancy Hoffman, who has been working with FRIS for 30 years. “We have 10 rape and domestic violence crisis centers, three rape crisis centers and three domestic violence crisis centers in West Virginia.”

Along with providing education, FRIS applies for grants and supplies support for specific crises in the state’s centers. Shenandoah Women’s Center in Martinsburg is one of the state’s 10 rape and domestic violence crisis centers.

“Our goal is, by the end of June, our centers will feel confident to be a resource for the National Human Trafficking Hotline, so that any victim in the state that contacts the national hotline will then have a local resource that they can refer a victim to,” Hoffman said.

The training was funded by FRIS and the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Rita Nieman, founder of the Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force of Shepherd University and Community, said there are more slaves in the world now than there were 200 years ago.

“Human trafficking is happening everywhere,” Nieman said. “The name is misleading. It’s slavery. It’s abuse.

“Human trafficking is about to take over the drug market. The big thing is, drugs you can only sell once. A human being you can sell multiple times a day,” she said. “Now, after the training, there will be 90 other counselors to answer the hotline’s calls.”

Rhonda West, Young Women’s Christian Associates Teen Dating Violence Advocate, said the training is important for everyone in the community.

“This is all informational training which, with my position, will be very important,” said West, who is from Wheeling. “We’re learning ways and the techniques of how to educate the community, the teens, the parents – everybody.”

“West Virginia’s No. 1 problem with human trafficking, is there are no statistics on it. With the new law in place, it’s going to change everything,” said West’s colleague, Heather Lapp, YWCA’s chief strategic officer.

“After this training, I’ll have to go one-on-one with all the police force in our area, to retrain them to get better on intake forms and to get better statistics,” Lapp said.