A bill by Senator Lauren Book (D-Plantation) to combat human trafficking was tonight signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis. Senate Bill 540 is a comprehensive piece of legislation which contains provisions for massage establishments, the hospitality industry and licensed medical professionals, creates a soliciting for prostitution public database, and creates a funding mechanism to help survivors with life-saving support services.
“Florida has zero tolerance for human trafficking and those who allow it to thrive in the shadows,” says Governor Ron DeSantis. “I am proud to sign this important piece of legislation into law, and I thank Senator Book for ensuring its passage through the legislature.”
“This law sends a powerful message 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 also curb the profitability of human trafficking — and take a stand against the enslavement of men, women and children in communities across our state. This victory belongs to the incredibly brave survivors who shared the worst moments of their lives to make sure change was able to happen for others. Thank you also to Governor DeSantis, Senate and House leadership, and especially Rules Chair Benaquisto and Senator Simpson for your continued commitment to combating ongoing slavery in our state.”
Senator Book’s bill creates 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.”
“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.”
“When I was a child suffering in silence, I could never have dreamed to have an advocate like Senator Book or Governor DeSantis,” 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 this law will now 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.