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Bon Secours, Safe Harbor partner to open area’s first shelter dedicated to human trafficking victims

The new facility will initially house 15 victims when it opens at an undisclosed location in January, the two entities say.

RVAHub Staff

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Two local groups are partnering to announce the establishment of a new shelter dedicated to helping victims of human trafficking–the first of its kind in Central Virginia.

Local nonprofit Safe Harbor Shelter has teamed up with Bon Secours Richmond Health System to open The Central Virginia Emergency Shelter for Human Trafficking Victims. The facility will provide shelter, counseling, safety planning, and case management in a single location to adult female human trafficking victims.

The two entities say the primary goal of the shelter will be to provide victims fleeing their traffickers with immediate safe housing. Once safe, secure housing is established, staff will assist with addressing legal and emotional support needs, including learning life skills, gaining meaningful employments, completing education and securing safe, affordable housing.

The initiative is largely the result of a $500,000 grant provided to Safe Harbor through the Department of Criminal Justice Services VOCA New Initiative Victim Assistance Grant Program. The grant will help hire staff, provide essential equipment and supplies to the operation of the shelter and define program development, among other items.

According to statistics from Bon Secours, many of the victims of human trafficking have not received basic medical care in years. The hospital system will address medical needs of the victims, including emergency and primary medical care for shelter residents. Forensic nurses from Bon Secours Forensic Nursing Program–a group of nurses specially trained to collect evidence from victims of physical abuse and sexual violence, including human trafficking–will also assist in helping victims recover and get back on their feet.

The shelter, the location of which is being kept confidential for safety reasons, is scheduled to open in January and will initially provide shelter to 15 residents, with plans to expand to house 25 in 2018.

“The shelter’s ultimate goal is to help victim’s live independent and happy lives,” said Cathy Easter, Executive Director of Safe Harbor, in a news release about the program. “Since our opening in 2000 as an emergency shelter for domestic violence victims, we have been growing increasingly concerned with the amount of human trafficking that goes on in Central Virginia. Through the shelter’s unique aspect of providing services in a single location, we will be able to reduce the impact of trauma on these victims.

The Henrico County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office has prosecuted more cases involving human trafficking offenses than any other jurisdiction in the Commonwealth of Virginia, highlighting the need for a dedicated facility for victims of this type of crime.

“These women need a place to build a life again,” said Easter. “This shelter [will provide] the entire package of help, in one location.”

 

[graphiq id=”fMNvyqWXVYN” title=”Human Trafficking in the U.S.” width=”600″ height=”600″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/fMNvyqWXVYN” ]

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Pedestrian struck in hit and run crash on Magnolia Street in Northside

The Richmond Police Department’s Special Operations Division-Traffic Crash Team is investigating a Hit & Run crash that occurred in the late evening yesterday in the City’s Northside.

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The Richmond Police Department’s Special Operations Division-Traffic Crash Team is investigating a Hit & Run crash that occurred in the late evening yesterday in the City’s Northside.

On Thursday evening, February 20, 2020, between 8:50 p.m. and 9:10 p.m., an unidentified vehicle traveling east in the 2200 block of Magnolia Street struck and seriously injured a male pedestrian wearing a yellow and white coat who was walking along Magnolia Street.

The driver of the striking vehicle fled the scene without stopping to render aid with the last known direction of travel as heading east on Magnolia Street towards Mechanicsville Turnpike.

The victim was transported to a local hospital where he is listed in life-threatening condition.

Anyone with information about this crash is asked to call RPD Crash Team Investigator Jarron Peterson at 804-646-1511 or contact Crime Stoppers at 780-1000 or at www.7801000.com. You may use the P3 smartphone app. All Crime Stoppers methods are anonymous.

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Sexual abuse reporting bills gain momentum in General Assembly

Two bills recently passed the House unanimously that aim to change the state’s statute of limitations for reporting sexual abuse.

Capital News Service

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By Rodney Robinson

Two bills recently passed the House unanimously that aim to change the state’s statute of limitations for reporting sexual abuse.

One bill gives victims a two-year window to file sexual abuse claims, if the statute of limitations have passed. The other extends the statute of limitations in adult civil sexual assault cases from two to 20 years.

House Bill 610 was introduced by Del. Jason S. Miyares, R-Virginia Beach. This bill creates a two-year time period, from after July 1 but before July 1, 2022, in which persons can file a claim for injury from sexual abuse occurring before the age of 18, regardless whether the statute of limitations expired.

“My hope is that this will enable you to have your day in court, and that’s my sincere hope,” Miyares said to victims who have suffered “unspeakable crimes.”

Miyares, a former prosecutor, said that “being in the court system, you can’t help but see” sexual abuse cases. Miyares said that he sponsored the legislation after reading a report from the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office. The report compiled the results of a two-year grand jury investigation into the claims of sexual abuse of children within six Pennsylvania dioceses. Some of the cases included dated back to 30 to 40 years ago and victims were not able to file a lawsuit because the statute of limitations had expired.

“That’s really what first kind of peaked my interest,” Miyares said. “I just thought that was a travesty.”

Miyares introduced a similar bill in 2019. HB 1888 proposed to eliminate the civil statute of limitations for injury resulting from sexual abuse occurring during childhood or incapacity. The bill died in committee. Originally, there was some concern about the 2019 bill being broadly written, Miyares said.

“I looked at how other states have tackled it and saw that a lot of states were doing a temporary, two-year sub gap where they allowed time-barred claims to be filed,” Miyares said. “And I thought two years was probably an appropriate amount of time to get the word out.”

HB 870, introduced by Del. Jeffrey M. Bourne, D-Richmond, establishes a procedure for victims to come forward in the future and extends the time frame they have to report sexual abuse.

Bourne’s bill allows the accuser 20 years to report sexual abuse that occurs on or after July 1. This expands the statute of limitations to 20 years from when the sexual abuse was discovered, for example in counseling. Currently, this 20-year window applies only if the act occurs while the person is under the age of 18, according to lawyer Eliott Buckner who helped create the bill.

The Virginia Trial Lawyers Association is a voluntary bar association with approximately 2,000 members. The group works to improve the state’s justice system.

The VTLA wrote HB 870 and searched for a patron, according to president-elect Buckner. Buckner, a lawyer for the Breit Cantor law firm in Richmond, said he was interested to help prepare a bill like this after an experience with a prospective client. He said his client had “the courthouse doors shut on her” because of the current law.

Buckner said that his client was groomed as a minor and that there were “repeated and specific acts” that mentally and emotionally conditioned her for the sexual abuse that occurred later.

“Because there was no sexual abuse when she was a minor, there was no extension of statute of limitations to bring a claim and there should have been,” Buckner said.

Buckner said his client was never able to have her day in court.

Both bills are now in a Senate judiciary committee.

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Crime

Police searching for suspect accused of shoplifting at Zest Clothing & Co. in Carytown

The suspect took several items into a fitting room, stuffed them into her purse, and walked out of the store.

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Richmond Police detectives need the public’s help to identify a woman who recently stole items from a clothing store in Carytown.

At approximately 4:10 p.m. on Sunday, January 19, officers responded to Zest Clothing & Co., located at 3140 W Cary Street, for the report of a shoplifting.  The suspect took several items into a fitting room, stuffed them into her purse, and walked out of the store.

Detectives believe she then came back the next weekend and stole from the store again.

Anyone with information about the identity of this suspect is asked to call Third Precinct Detective D. Osbourne at (804) 646-1069 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000 or at www.7801000.com.  The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones may also be used.  All Crime Stoppers methods are anonymous.

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