For Immediate Release: September 24, 2012
Erin Gillespie, Department of Children and Families Press Secretary, (850) 459-2063
Jennifer Meale, Communications Director, Office of the Attorney General, (850) 245-0211
C. J. Drake, Department of Juvenile Justice Communications Director, (850) 921-5905
Hundreds Attend Human Trafficking Summit to Learn How To Combat Crime, Help its Victims
Leaders, advocates, students and others gather at FSU, online to spread awareness
TALLAHASSEE—More than 250 concerned state and community leaders and advocates attended the first Florida Children and Youth Cabinet Human Trafficking Summit to learn about trafficking in Florida, what the state is doing to prevent it and what people can do to help victims in their own communities. Another 300 individuals participated in the online webcast of the event
Human trafficking is modern-day slavery through forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Statistics rank Florida as the third highest trafficking destination in the country, and half of all trafficking victims are children. Across America, almost 300,000 youth are at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Many are being trafficked in our own communities.
“With tough new laws on the books, we are sending the clear message that we will not tolerate human trafficking in Florida,” said Attorney General Pam Bondi. “Florida is third in the nation in calls to the national human trafficking hotline. We cannot allow criminals to exploit our women, men and children.”
Attorney General Bondi participated in the summit with Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins and Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters. The summit was held in partnership with the Florida State University Center for the Advancement of Human Rights.
“Florida’s fight against human trafficking has made this state a national leader, especially concerning children who are victims,” said DCF Secretary David Wilkins, who is also chair of the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet. “What’s starting now is a real grassroots effort. Communities across Florida are coming together to help survivors overcome their past.”
In June, Florida became a pioneer in the battle against this complex and difficult issue. Gov. Rick Scott signed House Bill 99, The Safe Harbor Act, which provides services to help victims who have been sexually exploited. In addition, Gov. Scott also signed House Bill 7049, which gives prosecutors the ability to better fight this despicable crime by imposing tougher penalties.
“Now we will have the types of facilities and services available to make these children whole again,” said DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters. “We will wrap our arms around these troubled victims and bring them back to the life they deserve to have.”
Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. The goal of the Human Trafficking Summit is to start a statewide conversation among community leaders, child advocates, students and professionals about the status of human trafficking in our communities and find ways that communities can come together to stop it. Breakout panels at the summit included law enforcement, service providers, human trafficking experts and survivors.
Several Floridians were honored for their efforts to stop human trafficking and help victims.
· Rep. Erik Fresen – Florida Safe Harbor Act Bill Sponsor
· State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle – Prosecutor of the Year
· Tonja Marshall, Group Supervisor for the Department of Homeland Security – Law Enforcement Official of the Year
· Trudy Novivki, Executive Director of Kristi House, and Sandy Skelaney, Program Manager at Kristi House – Advocates of the Year
For more information about the summit, or to view the webcast starting tomorrow, please go to www.flgov.com/humantraffickingsummit. To see the Twitter feed from the event, search #trafficking2012. If you are aware of any individual who is being abused or exploited, please call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-962-2873.