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New laws aim to combat human trafficking in Virginia

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Right now, people in our community are being sold for sex - both adults and children.

New laws aim to combat this problem.

Survivor and advocate Tanya Gould Street knows the horrors of human trafficking.

She now works to help victims. She said many times, victims are mis-classified.

“Now we’re learning more about what prostitution looks like when you break it down. You see that a lot of prostitutes are actually victims and survivors of human trafficking,” said Gould Street, a survivor and advocate.

In July, a few new laws went into effect in Virginia.

Travel agents can face a misdemeanor if they promote travel services for prostitution. 

Traffickers can face tougher laws if caught with a minor, and even liquor stores - a place where victims can be known to frequent - are pitching in to help.  

Now, if you go into any ABC Store in the state, you will see signs that have phone numbers to the national help line, which is 1 (888) 373-7888.

Brittany Dunn is part of the organization Safe House Project, a nonprofit that helps victims.

“Our survivors, they are incredible. Obviously, when they come to us, they have experienced some of the most horrific realities of our world,” said Dunn.

Delegate Jason Miyares said, “I think what we’ve seen in the General Assembly over the last couple years is that they have taken a much more proactive, much more interested in enhancing the penalties and tackling this problem.”

Related: Cycle of seduction: A local sex trafficking survivor's story

“We want to prevent this from continuing to have generational impact, and so if we can go back and re-frame some of the current legislation that gives everyone a path forward, hopefully we get to see this issue eradicated in the next decade,” said Dunn.

Now there’s an effort to get victims' records expunged and increase the mandatory sentences for those trafficking minors to make the laws tougher in hopes of stopping the problem.

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