A common reaction when we see, experience or hear about something repulsive or tragic is to ask the question, “Why?”
Pleading for answers and reflecting on the cause is as normal as expecting the sun to come out tomorrow. But the questions we should be asking as it pertains to innocent children being sexually exploited and trafficked in Florida should really look more like, “What now?”
Did you know that in the past year there were more than 1,200 reports of human trafficking to the Florida Abuse Hotline? Although we’ve made great progress in two short years, the number of available, safe beds for victims of human trafficking does not yet meet the need.
At The Porch Light, we are proud to operate a safe home that helps combat that reality. We exist to serve victims like 13-year-old Mary* who came to our safe home earlier this year.
Mary’s father died when she was young and her stepfather was physically and emotionally abusive, so she ran away. One night, when Mary was sobbing on the bench at a bus stop, a man drove by who promised to “take care of her.”
She was forced into prostitution and her life was so consumed with pain and deceit that she turned to alcohol to numb reality.
When Mary arrived at the safe home, she looked twice her age. She was bruised and broken, pleading for a better life.
Working with partners like DCF, law enforcement agencies and other child welfare organizations, we facilitate long-term trauma care for victims like Mary, while pouring our hearts into prevention efforts to stop this gruesome trade.
Our safe home’s expert staff focuses on helping girls overcome the abuse they have endured and works to redefine their self-worth, which has been grossly distorted. Sometimes it takes three to four months in a safe environment for a victim to talk about their traumatic past.
We are grateful to live in a state where forceful steps continue to be made to get predators off the streets, and we applaud those who have been bold enough to call for stronger measures to protect innocent children.
On January 1, House Bill 369 went into effect. It requires signage and advertisements in a plethora of public places to help Florida residents and visitors understand the real and present dangers of sex trafficking.
This year, The Porch Light reached more than 21,000 people through advocacy and prevention efforts and we believe in educating and equipping people so they can understand common signs of sex trafficking and make the difference our children so desperately need.
Now that you know you can make a difference in keeping children from being sexually exploited, I have a question for you: “What now?”
Let us take bold steps together to care for these innocent children and eradicate this heinous crime from our communities.