A bill by Senator Lauren Book (D-Plantation) to combat human trafficking appeared to be dead in committee, but was revived and passed on the Senate floor in a significant legislative move. Senate Bill 540 is a comprehensive piece of legislation and contains provisions for massage establishments, the hospitality industry, licensed medical professionals, and creates a soliciting for prostitution public database.
“This bill says to traffickers and pimps: the State of Florida is CLOSED for business,” says Senator Book, who worked alongside survivors of human trafficking for the past two years on legislation to curb the industry. “When we curb the demand for the illegal sale and purchase of sex, we will also curb the profitability of human trafficking.”
Senator Book’s bill would create a Direct Support Organization (DSO) under the Department of Legal Affairs to provide assistance, funding, and support to the already existing Statewide Council on Human Trafficking; require training on human trafficking awareness for law enforcement, hotel staff, and licensed medical professionals; deny and permanently revoke massage establishment licenses from individuals convicted of soliciting prostitution; and will establish a soliciting for prostitution public database for “pimps” and “Johns.”
“When I was a child suffering in silence, I could never have dreamed to have an advocate like Senator Book,” says human trafficking survivor Savannah Parvu, of Lake County. “I was trafficked out of hotel rooms, men would pay as little as $10 to do whatever they wanted to me. Being a part of the process for change has been an important part of my healing process – I know what happened to me is in the past, but we can prevent it from happening to other people.”
Human trafficking is modern-day slavery where victims are trapped by fraud, force, or coercion, forced to work – or be prostituted – for someone else’s financial gain. It continues to be the world’s fastest-growing criminal enterprise, and the second-largest criminal enterprise in America. Florida is the third highest trafficking destination in the United States, and half of all victims are under the age of 18.
“Human trafficking is a scourge on our society with impacts felt in homes and communities across Florida,” says Senate President Bill Galvano. “I commend Senator Book for her diligence in raising awareness of this significant problem and for her commitment to work with all stakeholders to ensure we pass legislation that will help put an end to this horrific crime.”
“Human trafficking is one of the largest and most despicable problems facing our state and nation. We must continue to find ways to address and end this modern form of slavery,” says Senate Rules Chair Senator Lizbeth Benaquisto. “I thank Senator Book for her steadfast leadership on this issue, and I am proud to have worked with her to pass this meaningful law that will absolutely save lives.”