by Whitney Turner–
Three Virginia Tech students have created an organization on campus to raise awareness of sex trafficking in Virginia called “It Happens Here.”
After working with victims of sex trafficking while on a mission trip together last spring break, Jordan White and Caroline Omland decided to use this issue as a platform for White’s homecoming campaign. When the homecoming campaign ended, White, Omland and their friend Kirsten Mitchell decided they didn’t want to stop educating people on this issue.
“We didn’t really see that people knew fully what it was or even that it existed in America or even that it existed at all,” said Mitchell. “So we really want to see people become more aware.”
In 2016, the National Human Trafficking Hotline reported that out of 148 cases of human trafficking in Virginia, 105 of them were sex trafficking cases.
In addition to education, “It Happens Here” seeks to fundraise and change legislation to combat this issue.
Having not had a haircut for over two and a half years, White used his mane to create a fundraiser to benefit Street Ransom, a safe house for victims of sex trafficking located in Roanoke, Va. By donating money to furnish rooms in the safe house, participants could vote on whether White should dread his hair, wear it as a fro, let it keep growing or get a buzz cut.
“Our initial goal was to furnish one room, $700 to $730 a room and we passed that in the first six hours,” said White. “Then we raised it to three rooms and we passed that a little over halfway through the campaign. So then we upped it to $5,000, which would furnish all of the rooms in the safe home.”
By the end of the fundraiser, White’s hair had raised $4,570 and won him a buzz cut.
White, Omland and Mitchell were surprised by the overwhelming interest and support their organization has received so far and they are hopeful that they can make a difference.
“I think people automatically assume that awareness isn’t really doing anything, that it’s not actually fighting against sex trafficking, but it is,” said Mitchell. “Because when you learn about it you’re stirred to action, you’re stirred to talk about it, you’re stirred to make other people realize this is happening.”