As a new Vermont resident, Linda Sullivan is the co-founder, president and director of B. E. S. T. [Building Empowerment by Stopping Trafficking], an organization founded three years ago that combats sex trafficking. She has recently been appointed by Governor Peter Shumlin as a member of the Children and Family Council for Prevention Programs.
“I put together a model of what I thought was needed…filling in the gaps,” she said. “I realized what victims do not have – or at least do not know they have the right to have – is an attorney. When you are trafficked, no matter what age, you are forced to commit other crimes.”
Giving a trafficking victim an attorney gives them the power to truly understand their rights and what is legally happening to them, she said. Sullivan also noticed these victims need to be given safety and holistic counseling to help them more forward in their lives. This is the model she helped develop with B. E. S. T. Victims of trafficking are immediately paired with an attorney and a certified life coach.
Part of B. E. S. T. ‘s success is they do not just help victims; they also help educate professionals. Sullivan said they train everyone from law enforcement to journalists to school principals on different signs of trafficking, how to be more aware of trafficking and what to do if they suspect it is going on.
Sullivan wants to use her position on the Children and Family Council for Prevention Programs to “make some noise” about trafficking. “People think that because their school systems are small and tight that they aren’t infiltrated, but that’s not true,” she said. By doing the training in schools and talking to the students about trafficking, bullying and gangs, students can become aware of trafficking and get the help they need if they have been trafficked themselves.
Sullivan said that as officials and private citizens in Vermont become more educated and aware of trafficking, things will change in the state.
Learn more at Anna Boarini’s The Manchester Journal article: Stopping traffic.