Monday, January 11, 2010

30 Days of Justice: Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking

3:42 AM
When I first heard there was slavery in Florida, I didn't believe it. I thought no way, not my state and not my city. But I was wrong. I had a friend tell me about the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking, and in an odd way I was comforted. It was devastating to learn about slavery in my backyard, but at least there was someone doing something about it.

The Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking, FCAHT, was founded in 2004 by Anna Rodriguez, former law enforcement victim advocate. She had worked a few cases in which human trafficking was involved in Florida in the 1990's and became committed to the cause and its victims. It's partly because of her vigilance that President George W. Bush signed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act back in 2000, which has ultimately changed the national climate of human trafficking. But Anna also realized there needed to be something done on the local or state level also. According to US Department of Justice (USDOJ) over 800,000 victims are trafficked across international borders worldwide each year. The USDOJ estimates that between 18,000 and 20,000 of those victims are trafficked into the U.S with Florida receiving a high percentage of those victims. The number of potential victims in Florida is expected to continually increase due to the number of immigrants that migrate to the state to participate in season agricultural harvests. So FCAHT was born.

Since 2004, FCAHT has expanded to 5 offices across Florida (Miami, Bonita Springs, Tampa, Orlando, and Shalimar) and has rescued & provided services to over 130 survivors. FCAHT does more than just identify a victim of trafficking. They have facilities to take them in and provide shelter, food clothing. They are able to get legal representation, medical help, and stability. So many victims are international, and having a safe refuge like FCAHT is the only way they would make it through this experience. They have saved so many lives, and more are being saved every day.

I have been a volunteer with FCAHT for about a year and a half. I knew that if this was going on in my city, I had to do something. So I began attending trainings and meetings to learn about the distinct issues that surround domestic [inside the U.S.] human trafficking. I have been able to do awareness presentations, where I have been able to educate the community on FCAHT and domestic human trafficking. I've also participated in outreach activities as well. Probably my favorite outreach so far was during the Tampa Super Bowl last February. Because of the nature of the event [high party atmosphere + a lot of people traveling], FCAHT put together street teams to literally walk the streets of Tampa to educate hotel managers and restaurant & shop owners about the possibility of domestic minor sex trafficking [underage victims being used for sex] going on that weekend, and what signs and signals to look for. We also had flyers of a few missing girls from the area that could possibly be involved against their will. As a result of our efforts, tips were called in and leads were uncovered. This same street team efforts will be at the 2010 Super Bowl in Miami next month, which I'm hoping to be a part.

The reason that I chose to highlight FCAHT today is because January 11 is the National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Take this day to get more educated on the cause and what you can do to prevent it in your area. Also, you can join The Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking, Global Child Rescue, and KlassKids Foundation in bringing more awareness on the issue of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking. The event will take place at St. Pete Community College Seminole Capmus. Regsitraion will begin at 3:30 p.m. this afternoon.

About the author

Joy Muldoon is a full-time missionary and part-time blogger. Read about her travels, adventures, and missions here!