By Briana Florez
On Nov. 11, Detective Bill Woolf came to Paul VI to report on sex trafficking in the county and to make a presentation entitled “Understanding Healthy Relationships in a Sexualized Way.” Detective Woolf works for the Fairfax County Police Resources Division and is in charge of investigating all aspects of human trafficking in Fairfax County. “Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery,” according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. “This crime occurs when a trafficker uses force, fraud or coercion to control another person for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or soliciting labor or services against his/her will.”
In the first half of 2013, more than “375 calls were made…to report information regarding human trafficking in Virginia,” according to the “Just Ask” Prevention Project, a public awareness project designed to expose Teen Sex Trafficking in Northern Virginia. “According to the FBI, sex trafficking of teens is the second fastest growing crime in the United States, and Northern Virginia has become one of the top teen trafficking venues in the nation. Sex traffickers have established networks in NOVA and are preying on middle and high school teens, targeting them through social media, malls, metro stations, bus stops and even selecting victims from middle schools and high schools across the region.”
According to a Jan. 2014 NBC4 report, in 2012–13, 54 defendants were “prosecuted in federal court in northern Virginia – 42 of their victims pressed into prostitution were juveniles.”
Some of Woolf’s key points included:
- Know what a healthy relationship is.
- Understand how pornography is harmful. It gives a distorted view of sexuality, deprives the value of sex between a married man and woman and can give the perception that rape is nothing but a criminal offense, or even less than that.
- Realize the role of sex in relationships and the importance of abstinence.
- Recognize these common misbeliefs: Sex is for fun, males are entitled to sex, it is common for men to use prostitutes, prostitutes love making money by having sex, the sexual act is between two consenting adults, sex is a job for some.
- The most common myth of sex trafficking is: “I will never be a victim of sex trafficking or sexual abuse.”
- Facts show 1 in 10 men will pay for sex at some point within their lifetime.
- Understand that unhealthy relationships can lead to depression, physical abuse, emotional abuse, disease and injury, sexual abuse and exploitation.
- Some 100,000 sex trafficking victims are minors in the United States.
- Recognize the warning signs of prospective victims: Isolation from family, secretivity, change of friends, change of clothing, sexually licentious.
- Know what to do if you recognize a victim: Talk with the victim, report suspicions/incidents to counseling staff and be sure to follow up.
(Note that Detective Woolf usually gives this talk over a duration of many hours, and he had to attempt to convey a lot of information in a 45-minute period for Paul VI students.)
The presentation sparked dialogue among students, especially the males. Several male students felt that Detective Woolf targeted the males and “called them all out” unfairly. Some felt that he should have split the females and males up, and spoken to each group separately.
“I just felt that he was targeting boys while the girls were getting all the pity,” said Giovanni Zamora ‘16, “as if all guys were bad, and that girls shouldn’t trust any of them. I’m not saying there aren’t bad guys in the world, but we’re not all like that! He also used inaccurate examples and connections, such as watching pornography will eventually turn all guys into pimps or guys who abuse women. I’m not in any way trying to justify watching pornography, I just feel like there are better examples he could’ve used.”
Mark LaBarge ‘15 agreed with Zamora. “The issues he brought up are definitely a problem, but his statements were too generalized, which is why I think most guys felt targeted.”
The general reaction from the female students differed slightly from the males’, but some individuals certainly agreed that Detective Woolf wrongly targeted the males. Others felt that his talk was very informative, however, and really opened their eyes to horrible things that are happening right in our local area and to girls our age.
“I was surprised at the numbers about sex trafficking he gave us in our very own Fairfax County,” said Monica Lawrence ‘16. “It opened my eyes to the fact that it could happen to anyone.”
Lydia Florez ‘15, felt that Detective Woolf’s talk brought attention to a very important issue and was very educational. “Detective Woolf’s talk revealed some very important information and raised awareness about an issue many of us were not familiar with. I also think that there are more and more teenagers that are becoming sexualized and desensitized by things like pornography, and this problem is something our generation needs to face.”
Izzy Toma ‘17 agreed with the males who were offended by the talk given. “I believe that he started off really strong, but his talk quickly took a dramatic turn and definitely directed towards the guys. He definitely turned the crowd against him and made the guys feel guilty for things they most likely have not done.”
“Any information that helps us grow in our relationships with other people is valuable,” said Mrs. Joyce Krolicki, coordinator of Campus Ministry, in response to the students’ reactions. “People might not have liked everything he had to say, but it started a discussion. He handed us facts which go along with information that is taught in Theology of the Body that cannot be disputed.”
Overall, were students a fan of this talk? Some strongly supported and endorsed all of what Detective Woolf presented, while others questioned it. Arguably though, Detective Woolf shed light on some really terrible things that are happening literally right around us. The presentation especially encouraged the females to ask questions and to speak up if something doesn’t seem or feel right with themselves or their classmates. And Woolf reiterated it is important that teenagers be careful and aware when posting and responding on social media networking sites.
Detective Woolf’s talk got people talking about the sex trafficking issue in this area. If he got people talking, then he did his job.
National Human Trafficking Resource Center Contact Information: 1-888-3737-888 www.TrafickingResourceCenter.org or text BEFREE
To learn more about the sex trafficking issue in our area: www.justaskva.org
Detective Bill Woolf’s Contact Information: email@example.com
Woolf, Bill. “Understanding Healthy Relationships in a Sexualized Way.” Sex Trafficking Assembly, Paul VI Catholic High School, Fairfax, Va. 11 November 2014.
“Home—The Just Ask Prevention Project to End Teen Sex Trafficking.” The Just Ask Prevention Project to End Teen Sex Trafficking. Just Ask VA. Web. 26 Nov. 2014.