For The Record

Amanda Short’s passion for justice is rooted in personal experience: When she was 9, visiting the Philippines with her family, she came close to being a victim of human trafficking.

A couple claiming to be Christian missionaries befriended Short’s father. The wife asked to take the young girl shopping, and Short soon found herself being whisked toward a curtain at the back of the store. “In that exact moment, my mom came into the store and yelled my name,” Short said. “That threw the wife off, and she let go of my arm, and I ran to my mom.” Short’s parents followed up with the local authorities, who confirmed that there had been reports of young girls being smuggled into the Middle East.

After the incident, Short became interested in human trafficking. “And I was completely shocked when I learned that human trafficking occurred in the United States,” she said.

As a volunteer victim advocate with the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Initiative — now Reset180 — Short, L’22, received in-depth training about what trafficking looks like. “Human trafficking isn’t a white van pulling up and snatching women and children,” she said. “Human trafficking is a pimp preying on the vulnerabilities of a victim, promising her love, gifts, etc., and then abusing her emotionally and perhaps also physically into selling her body.”

Short had a brush with another kind of trafficking — labor trafficking — when she discovered that a family member who was working as a live-in maid and nanny in Virginia was a victim. She had been brought to the U.S. from the Philippines and told she would make $250 a week; the family she worked for withheld her passport and paid her only $50 a month.

“Labor trafficking is often harder to catch, as victims are often noncitizens and afraid to come forward, or the victim simply doesn’t know they’re being trafficked,” Short said. The woman eventually was able to get out of the situation; it wasn’t until years later, when Short asked her how she had come to the U.S., that the woman realized she had been a victim of trafficking.

Last summer, Short landed an internship in the Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit. It involved conducting research on a variety of trafficking issues, preparing memoranda used by trial attorneys, and helping to streamline investigations. Short worked primarily on domestic sex trafficking and labor trafficking cases as well as one international case. She credits her Richmond Law classes, especially in legal writing and research, for preparing her for the internship.

“It solidified my passion for anti-trafficking work,” she said. “Working hands-on at the federal level was everything I could have dreamed of. It was an honor to work with and learn from the best in the field.”