April 13, 2017, Tallahassee, FL
Florida Abolitionist staff and volunteers were on hand to participate in the inaugural Human Trafficking Advocacy Day at the State Capitol building in Tallahassee, FL.
The day began with a prayer breakfast where advocates and state leaders were moved to get involved by keeping victim care at the forefront.
Dr. Joel Hunter, the pastor of Northland Church in Orlando, was the keynote speaker at the breakfast. He said, “This isn’t a cause. This is personal; it is about people. It is relational. There needs to be a group of people to re-empower innocence to live a life that is fully loved and fully appreciated.” He called upon churches to work together to be this group and encouraged personal involvement saying, “Every trauma that’s experienced won’t be healed without relationships.”
This is why Florida Abolitionist is excited to begin our Survivor to Thriver program that will pair trafficking survivors with groups of individuals who will mentor and encourage that person through relationships. It is an exciting program we are thrilled to start soon.
After the breakfast, the crowd of over 200 people heard a panel of survivors who bravely shared their stories of abuse and restoration. It was incredibly powerful and emotionally prepared everyone for the march to the capitol and subsequent meetings with representatives to encourage much-needed action on a state level.
As the large group approached the capitol building, cars slowed and eyes peered to see what this large group was up to. The march led to a press conference on the capitol steps where legislators, survivor advocates, and movement leaders shared a collaborative vision to end slavery in the state of Florida.
Krista Hicks, survivor and director of Into the Jordan, shared her story of exploitation and healing. She emphasized that earlier detection could have spared her years of abuse. Hicks said, “Teachers saw rebellion and they should have seen trauma. A therapist saw anger when they should have seen trauma.” After missing school for 10 weeks at the age of 15, teachers “saw a runaway delinquent and they should have seen signs of human trafficking.”
Education about the signs of trauma and how to respond is critical to early intervention.
Following the press conference, advocates personally visited each and every state senator and representative encouraging them to support several bills focused on human trafficking during the current session. These bills will improve services for victims, prevent trafficking through education in schools, and help improve earlier detection and care that Hicks