Guest post by Amy Turner, Trail Blazers Club Leader for Lee County 4-H Extension. The student organization recently organized an interactive human trafficking awareness exhibit at the recent conference organized by the International Committee on Human Rights in Southwest Florida in partnership with the South Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking. Kudos to these students for taking the lead and being proactive in their community.
She missed the bus and a popular older boy offered her a ride home. They stop at his house on the way so he can pick up a book. He offers her to come inside and gets her a glass of soda. She wakes up groggy, on a bed, sore. The soda was drugged, and he and his friends sexually assaulted her. They have pictures and will show her parents if she doesn’t come back. She comes back. Her parents never knew.
His new girlfriend introduced him to a music producer. The producer sees a lot of promise in him, offers to cut him a demo tape for free. His parents check out the producer – he has a website and references. He goes to the studio, closes the door and is beat up by three large men. They force him into prostitution with the threat of being beat up again if he refuses.
A new girl is in her class. Seems edgy, cool. They are friends, texting and hanging out together for weeks. Her dad cleans office buildings and offers her a job. Her parents meet the friend and her parents to try to check it out. Her parents reluctantly say ok and drop her off. She is drugged and driven out of town in a truck.
The examples above are based on true stories. They were kids from good homes with caring families. Hearing stories like these made Lee County Extension 4-H want to get involved in human trafficking prevention awareness. Our students wanted to do something with a big impact that would make people understand that it can happen to anyone. They wanted to warn their friends.
So the students worked with Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships Inc. Founder/Executive Director Nola Theiss to design an elaborate set called the T.I.P.S. exhibit (Trafficking Interactive Prevention Simulation). It had life-size pictures of buildings and school buses, true-story scenarios, and led Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking conference event attendees through the hallways of real human trafficking situations. Visitors were given cards with various scenarios and armed with tips to avoid being “trafficked.” Mental health counselors were placed at the exit so every attendee that completes their walk through had the opportunity to discuss what they just experienced.
One of the biggest things for parents to remember is to talk to your kids. Let them know they can tell you anything. Some of the other tips on the attendees’ cards included:
- Don’t eat or drink anything you did not see prepared.
- Always make sure a trusted friend knows where you are.
- If it sounds too good to be true, wait at least 24 hours. Talk about it with someone you trust.
- Use the Internet to research the background of opportunities that come your way, like music and modeling.
- Don’t be afraid to say no to an adult who makes you feel uncomfortable. Lie if you have to and warn others about him or her.
If you or someone you know may be the victim of human trafficking, please call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-962-2873.