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Human Trafficking Experts: Put More Focus On Taking Down 'Johns,' Not Just Recognizing Signs

Florida Channel

As Florida continues to work to combat human trafficking, some experts say working to make sure everyone recognizes the signs is important. But, equally important is going after the so-called “johns” themselves.

The movie “Trafficked” follows the story of three young girls from India, Nigeria, and American who are trafficked and try to escape.

“This film depicts for the first time the true side of human trafficking—taking the viewer on an emotional gut-wrenching journey that he or she will never forget,” said Hollywood actress Anne Archer.

You might know Archer for her roles in movies, like “Fatal Attraction” and “Patriot Games.” More recently, she spoke at this year’s Human Trafficking Summit as an advocate for fighting the modern day slavery practice. Archer also plays a nun in the “Trafficked” film.

“It’s written by modern day slavery expert, Siddarth Kara, who was the director of the Human Trafficking program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, she added. “And, the movie offers an unflinching look at the pain and suffering inherent in sex trafficking.”

Archer said what also sets the movie apart is how it portrays “johns,” or the sex buyers.

“Siddarth Kara estimates that there are anywhere between 21 to 46 million slaves in the world today, generating profits that exceed $150 billion per year for their exploiters,” she continued. “That’s more than Nike, Google, and Starbucks combined. In every single one of those dollars comes from the sex buyer. They’re the real drivers of this industry…not that you’d ever see that portrayed in that way in your average Hollywood movie.”

And, she added with all the money to be made, it’s no wonder gangs and organized crime are interested in running the sex trade.

“Studies show us that in Miami, criminals make $235 million in cash via the illegal sex trade in 2007,” stated Archer. “That same year, the local drug trade netted only $96 million in cash. Black market firearm sales were around $118 million. So, as far as the Miami underground is concerned, paid sex is more lucrative than the drugs and arm trade combined. And, it’s not just profit that is motivating these guys. In many cases, selling people is easier and safer than running guns or drugs.”

Florida ranks third in the nation for the number of calls made to the national human trafficking hotline. And, even with the state’s ongoing efforts to combat human trafficking, Archer says there is still more work to do.

“The approach to the problem needs to be different,” she said. “For starters, we need more research on trafficking nationally and locally. How many victims are there in the state of Florida? In what industries? How many are trafficked here? Who is buying and selling them? Finding the answers to these questions is the first step and the reason an effective statewide campaign against human trafficking.”

And, she said it’s important to think of the illegal sex trade as a business—meaning to stop it, it requires cutting off its financial support. In this case, Archer says she’s talking about going after the “johns.”

“It’s a simple idea,” Archer stated. “But, you know what? It’s actually working. In Chicago, Sheriff Tom Dart executed his 12th National John Suppression initiative, where he partners with local law enforcement to go after the sex buyers, who keep trafficking with their cash. It was his most successful effort to date with more than 1,300 sex buyers arrested across 18 states in just one month.”

Still, she did applaud the work Attorney General Pam Bondi has been doing to put a spotlight on the issue. And, Bondi says she’s actually talking to businesses to get them on board on recognizing the signs of human trafficking.

“I was at a National Attorneys General meeting, and we had corporate partners there from all over the country,” said Bondi. “We figured they reached over a million people, just the executives represented in that one room. I said, ‘e-mail it out to your employees. Tell them the signs to look for. Tell them to talk to their kids about opioid abuse, and don’t buy a drug off the street. And, you don’t know what it is. The dangers of buying Adderall on the streets…all of these drugs that are now heroin and fentanyl. And, it’s all wrapped up into human trafficking as well because we know that’s how they get our children addicted, and sucked into human trafficking often.”

Bondi also encourages everyone to go to the website: youcanstopht.com.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.