Human trafficking is a 34-billion dollar industry that state, national, and international groups and leaders are hoping to curb. And, one way they’re hoping to address the problem is through an educational two-day forum in Florida called "“Modern Day Slavery: Creating Strategies and Partnerships in Combating Human Trafficking.”
Yaroslaba Garcia is a clinical therapist at Abuse Counseling and Treatment, better known as the ACT shelter. She's also the chair of the South West Florida Regional Coalition Against Human Trafficking, one of the many groups that created the forum to train people, especially law enforcement, on how to deal with human trafficking victims.
“Law enforcement may still not know how to interview a victim of human trafficking, or may not know what to do once they do have a victim of human trafficking in their presence,” said Garcia. “So, what we wanted to do with this was to just have law enforcement know these are all the services that are out there in the community. This is what we can do. We have shelters, professionals, and funding for these victims. We just want law enforcement to have a partnership with us.”
Several of the sessions included topics like, the issue of trafficking and its impact internationally, and featured representatives from the Dominican Republic.
“We do know that this is a very, very big issue in the Dominican Republic,” said Garcia. “In the Dominican Republic, we’re seeing a lot of traffickers and tons of victims, including minors. And, we realize this is an issue. The United States signed a treaty two months ago with the Dominican Republic, and one of three things that they want to fix in the treaty is their issue with human trafficking.”
Dr. Ruthie Lohmeyer is with the School District of Lee County Parent Center and one of the people who helped with the forum. In addition to the different sessions, she says there’s also some interesting exhibits at the forum.
“There’s a Florida Modern Day Slavery Museum,” said Dr. Lohmeyer. “And, then there’s a program called “Trafficking Interactive Prevention.” It’s a simulation. You can walk through and experience what it might be like in a trafficking scenario. It’s pretty upsetting, which is good, because then you need to turn around and do something about it.”
This is the first time the forum has ever met, and they hope to continue the tradition in the Dominican Republican next year. This year’s forum takes place at Hodges University in Fort Myers and ends Friday. Florida is one of the top 5 states in the nation for trafficking.
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