The Statewide Council on Human Trafficking convened on the campus of UCF today. Led by Attorney General, Pam Bondi, the Council is making strides to end this horrible crime in the State of Florida. Despite improved legislation and great effort, Terry Coonan from FSU’s Center for the Advancement of Human Rights stated, “Sex trafficking remains endemic throughout the state.”
The Council aims to improve prevention and restorative services statewide. Bondi stated, “We have to take care of our entire state,” so they are breaking the Sunshine State down into regions in order to learn and apply best practices.
This meeting focused largely on the work of preventing human trafficking through education and demand reduction. Secretary Mike Carroll shared what he is seeing in the Dept. of Children and Families. He emphasized the importance of prevention in ending human trafficking. He said, “A big part of prevention is education.”
In order to provide this education, Greater
Orlando human trafficking task force co-founder, Jill Bolander Cohen, and Hayley Corbett shared a demo of the educational app, ACT!. The collaborative project between the Lifeboat Project and Engineering & Computer Simulations, uses an app to teach students the red flags of human trafficking in their language – video games! The council was excited to be the first state to utilize such cutting edge technology to help prevent human trafficking. The app should be live for free download in January 2016. For more information, watch their recent special from Channel 9.
In addition to educating students, the council heard reports that encourage the reduction of demand for commercial sex as another way to prevent trafficking and exploitation. Sheriff William Snyder said, “The demand is insatiable,” and sees that sexual exploitation is rampant.
Dr. Brooke Bello, Founder/CEO of More Too Life, followed this theme but began by briefly sharing her own personal story of human trafficking, abuse, and exploitation. You could hear a pin drop in the room as she explained the importance of men being involved in the solution to reduce demand for commercial sexual exploitation. She lobbied for greater penalties for those who purchase commercial sex, stating a 70% recidivism rate among those who are arrested for purchasing a prostitute. She said, “Transactional activity lessens when demand is reduced.”
In response to the recent support for the legalization of prostitution by Amnesty International, Bello shared a quote from a survivor of human trafficking and anti-trafficking advocate:
“Far from the ‘happy hooker’ narrative, the reality is the vast majority of women and girls in the brothels and the red light zones are there because they have been harmed through previous life experiences beyond their control, like poverty, educational disadvantage, and childhood sexual abuse.”
It is time to end the exploitation, will you join us?