Human trafficking in Florida

Noah Quillan, Editor-in-chief

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Florida ranks third in the nation for human trafficking reports. The definition of human trafficking is transporting, soliciting, recruiting, harboring, providing or obtaining another person for transport for the purposes of forced labor, domestic servitude or sexual exploitation using force. Human trafficking is modern day slavery.

According to Polaris, 150 billion dollars is the amount of money each year that is made through the human trafficking industry, with 35 billion being from the US alone. In 2012, the International Labor Organization estimated that there are 20.9 million human trafficking victims worldwide.

A global concern: Sex trafficking is an immense problem in today’s world. Over 5000 cases of sex trafficking were reported last year in the US but that is a small number compared to the total amount of cases that go unreported. “It’s really fulfilling to help others learn about issues that affect their community and to maybe impact the issue as a whole,” stated Haley Cardillo, explaining why she used this as the topic of her FCCLA project.

Some victims end up getting into the hands of human traffickers due to poverty and lack of employment opportunity or education. In some cases, these innocent victims were looking for ways to support their family or become more financially stable. During the process, human traffickers may have captured and enslaved them while being abused and receiving little to no pay.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, every two minutes a child is trafficked for sexual exploitation in the United States. The problem is unusually large in Florida because of its large population and diversity.

Often times, human trafficking victims hide their symptoms because they are scared. Some common things to look for include malnourishment, bruises, especially on the face, branding on the neck or back, having a lack of official identification and not looking into someone’s eyes when talking. Having these symptoms does not mean someone has experienced human trafficking necessarily. If someone seems off or shares some of these symptoms, it is a good idea to contact someone or question the person directly to hear their response and do what is necessary from there.

One of the school’s resource officers, Officer Moore, explained that each case he receives is different. If a case of human trafficking is reported, he says that it depends on which jurisdiction it falls under as to where the case ends up. Sometimes, the case may go farther than the school, city, or even county. Officer Moore also said that he would like to see more awareness brought into the education system, because everyone knows that human trafficking is a problem but not enough know the severity of it.

An organization dedicated to advocating against sex trafficking, End Slavery, recommends urging local representatives to pass and support bills that ends the crisis. Sites like Polaris and Shared Hope International specifically show what each state needs more support on in terms of policies for sex trafficking, as well as providing additional details and statistics related to the epidemic.

Florida Representative Fitzenhagen introduced two bills regarding human trafficking. House Bill 851 and Senate Bill 540 would require police, hotel and massage parlor employees to be trained in recognizing signs of human trafficking. Even though that is a step in the right direction, the community can keep pushing for more to be done. There are opportunities both locally and nationally that support the greater cause in fighting against human trafficking.

Locally, there is an organization called Selah Freedom. The organization’s motto is, “Bringing Light into the Darkness of Sex Trafficking.” Selah Freedom offers many opportunities for people in the community to help out in, from donating, to volunteering, to hosting a party with a purpose.

“Go to our website and get involved,” stated Erica Roberts, a part-time helper at Selah Freedom. “Lots of churches and community organizations get involved.”

There are hotlines open 24 hours a day for victims of human trafficking. Call 1-888-373-7888, text 233733, or join a live chat here.

“If someone is scared to reach out, don’t feel afraid to speak the truth to someone. Grab a family member, or teacher, or law enforcement and let them know what’s happening. There’s nothing worse than waiting too long and not having evidence. You want evidence. When you’re able to speak about it, you’re able to accept it. If you don’t, you’ll isolate yourself,” explained Roberts.