October 2, 2018, Orlando, FL
Imagine you have a 17-year-old niece named Stephanie. She loves dancing, movies, and spending time with her friends. One day a man starts talking to her online and promises her the world.
Stephanie falls for his trap, hook, line, and sinker. He gets her hooked on drugs and begins selling her for sex. Your family is distraught.
Your niece. Sold. Repeatedly.
Now imagine that she has her 18th birthday while being trafficked. A day you would have celebrated now becomes a reason for concern. What happens now that she is an adult?
The Safe Harbor Act was passed in the state of Florida in 2013. It explicitly states that a minor cannot be arrested for commercial sexual exploitation. In other words, before their 18th birthdays, children are treated as victims of human trafficking, they are not arrested for prostitution. In addition, buyers can even be charged with human trafficking.
What a difference a day makes.
What about Stephanie who was trafficked for months as a minor but “celebrated” her 18th birthday? Does a child really become an adult in one day?
Legally, as soon as a minor turns 18, he or she can be arrested for prostitution. Very few victims have the courage to expose their traffickers, even though that is the one thing that will keep them out of jail. As a result, innocent victims who have been manipulated, drugged, and coerced go to jail while their traffickers remain free.
The Age Gap
When Florida Abolitionist first began providing assistance to victims of human trafficking, our Founder, Tomas Lares recognized a huge gap in services for adult victims. While many resources and services exist for minors who are identified as victims, very few are available for adults.
For example, let’s imagine that your niece, Stephanie, is recovered by law enforcement in California and she cooperates with the authorities, telling them how she had been forced and trafficked. Now, what happens? Where does she turn?
Police cannot keep her because she has done nothing wrong. If she is like most trafficking survivors, she has no money, no home, no friends, is addicted to drugs, her only possessions are the clothes on her back, and her family is across the country.
Who will be there for her?
This is when far too many survivors return to the streets, running back into the arms of a trafficker because they have no other options.
You can change that. You can be there for every Stephanie who is left with nowhere to go. By becoming an Abolitionist Partner and giving $18 per month in honor of her 18th birthday, you can ensure that every survivor who is recovered and has nowhere to go receives critical support through our advocacy and comprehensive case management program.
Give the Stephanies of our community hope for tomorrow. Become an Abolitionist Partner today!
Click HERE to change lives!
by Blair Pippin
Creative & Prevention Director • Florida Abolitionist