New facility, education in schools to help victims of human trafficking in Central Florida

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Orange County leads the state in reports of human trafficking cases involving children, according to the Department of Children and Families.

And when those children are trafficked through adulthood, there’s a lapse in services available to them.

But a new facility opening early next year may help curb the crime happening in Central Florida.

Florida Abolitionists, the group behind the new facility, gathered inside Calvary Orlando on Thursday to celebrate the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

 

 

Among the people present was Amy Smith, someone who knows all too well what the nonprofit is battling.

Smith spent a year of her adult life being sold for sex. It took her several attempts to escape.

“The threats, the manipulation, the psychological chains that you can’t see,” said Smith.

Florida Abolitionists partnered with Orange County to provide a 10-bed facility that will open in April.

Smith spent a year of her adult life being sold for sec. it took her several attempts to escape.

“The threats, the manipulation, the psychological chains that you can’t see,” said Smith.

Florida Abolitionists partnered with Orange County to provide a 10-bed facility that will open in April.

The $425,000 investment will help victims like Smith leave traffickers.

“It’s equivalent to what Harbor House did for domestic violence,” said Tom Lares, founder of Florida Abolitionists.

Organizers said they expect the beds of the facility to stay full and think it can help put an end to human trafficking in Central Florida.

Shutting out human trafficking comes with a price--the nonprofit was previously paying $26,000 a yearfor office space. But with the in-kind donation from Calvary Orlando for the new facility, that money can now go to victims. 

“With this in-kind donation from Calvary of Orlando, we’re going to be able to use that money for victims’ service,” Lares said.

Services that Smith said are desperately needed.

“Adults can be vulnerable, too, and there are different reasons why they’re vulnerable,” Smith said.

The new facility’s location is confidential, but it will be available to victims taking the difficult step Smith did 10 years ago—leaving a life that has become the only way of survival they know.

“I’m lucky to be here, so why shouldn’t I help someone who’s going through this right now?” Smith said.

Along with the new facility, advocates are also working with Orange County schools to incorporate education on how to prevent human trafficking.

Advocates said children are top targets for traffickers--girls between 12 and 14 are in high demand, and boys as young as 10 are targets.

That's why Florida Abolitionists is in talks with Orange County Public Schools to bring awareness to classrooms.

“We want to make sure that students, parents and teachers are equipped to know what signs to look for,” Lares said.

It's the first partnership between an anti-human-trafficking organization and a school district in the state.

The Florida Abolitionists are working on a video now, and will start training staffs next year.

The end goal is to bring that education to the classroom, and make human trafficking a part of education in the classroom, perhaps in health class.

“I believe we can incorporate some type of awareness curriculum eventually, just like bullying and ‘say no to drugs,’” Lares said.

Training for teachers, the school board and staff will begin next school year. Curriculum in the classroom is still being developed.

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