RICHMOND, Va. — The ring of the door opening at local Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) liquor stores isn’t welcoming to some, advocates say.
“Survivors will actually pick out the alcohol of choice that works to quickest, works the fastest, works the strongest,” Shelly Brown, a forensic nurse examiner at a hospital in the Richmond-area, explained. “A lot of times when they wake up they say it feels like it never happened.”
In her line of work, Brown comes across people caught in the cycle of human trafficking. Abused, physically and sexually. What she’s witnessed has caused her to become an advocate to combat the crime, with ImPACT Virginia. The organization aims to stop child trafficking.
“Especially while they are inside of this lifestyle they develop an addiction to drugs and alcohol,” Brown says.
But starting July 1, a new door is opening for people looking for a way out. Because of the high volume of people going in and out of ABC stores, the General Assembly passed a law (HB1887) to require government-run liquor stores to put up signs with the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Survivors or witnesses to the crime can anonymously call the telephone number to report it.
THE NATIONAL HUMAN TRAFFICKING HOTLINE IS 1-(888)-373-7888 OR CLICK HERE
Last year, nearly 200 people called the hotline in Virginia. Since 2007, there have been more than 4,400 calls from the Commonwealth.
The General Assembly passed a similar law in 2018, requiring rest areas to post signage with the hotline because they are hot spots for human trafficking.
About 31 million people visited ABC stores in the 2018 fiscal year, according to the agency.
“It’s a lot of exposure for arguably a very, very important cause,” ABC spokesperson Taylor Thornberg said. “92 percent of Virginians live within 10 minutes of an ABC store.”
Each sign is in English and Spanish. There isn’t a designated spot for the sign to be put up in the stores because each location is laid out differently, but Thornberg says it will be in a very public place.
Brown says simply giving survivors a resource can make a huge difference and can help them get out of a bad situation.
“When they think that there’s no resources that there’s no help, that there’s no resources, that nobody cares,” Brown says. “They may not have even thought that prior to then that there was an opportunity for them or that stores like this, that agencies like this really cared about what was happening to them.”
You should start seeing the signs in ABC stores on Monday, July 1.