Guest blog post by Giselle Rodriguez, State Outreach Coordinator for the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking
A 15-year-old girl was on her way home from school in Orlando when the unthinkable happened. A married couple drove up and the husband jumped out and kidnapped her. For a month, the girl was abused and forced into prostitution. Luckily, she was found and was rescued from this nightmare she was forced to live. The married couple was arrested and pleaded guilty to sex trafficking charges, but not all stories end this way.
In the past, if a teenager was found to be involved in prostitution they may have been put into a juvenile detention program. But now, as of Jan. 1, 2013, the Safe Harbor Act allows the state to provide safety, medical treatment, therapy and shelter to these child victims of human trafficking.
It is estimated that 1.8 million children worldwide are forced into the commercial sex industry. Many people wonder, how can this sort of thing happen in some of these countries? This type of thing could never happen in the U.S., right? But it is happening here. Even in Florida.
Since January 2010, there have been 1,266 cases in Florida of alleged human trafficking involving child sexual exploitation. Human trafficking also includes involuntary labor, servitude and debt bondage, and Florida has the third highest volume of calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Take the time to reflect and speak out against the issue of human trafficking. Many Florida anti-trafficking organizations will be hosting events that will help shed light on human trafficking.
It is important that we continue to educate people on the fact that slavery is still occurring in the U.S. The more we talk about this issue, the better chances we have to identify, rescue and restore these victims.
If you suspect any child is a victim of human trafficking, please call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-962-2873.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
— Nelson Mandela