Human trafficking — learn the signs

Published on: January 9, 2019

Human slavery exists in our own backyard

By LOIS KINDLE

The Campaign Against Human Trafficking – SouthShore will present an educational forum on the topic of modern-day slavery Jan. 15 at the Sun City Center Area Chamber of Commerce. The free event will include light refreshments and take place from 2 to 4 p.m. in the chamber’s events hall. 

“I attended last year’s forum on human trafficking, and it truly opened my eyes at how prevalent (this issue) is right here in our area,” said Paula Moore, educational committee chairwoman for the South Shore Coalition for Mental Health and Aging, one of the event’s two sponsoring organizations. The other is NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “I think people will be shocked to learn the numbers of people who become victims, including young women and men — even seniors.”

During the upcoming forum, Ann Garrison, president of the Campaign Against Human Trafficking – SouthShore, will tell you all about modern-day slavery; how it happens and its effects on its victims; the signs of human trafficking and what to do when you see them; and the efforts underway to stop this horrendous crime. There will be plenty of time for questions.

The Campaign Against Human Trafficking – SouthShore (CAHT) supports the Tampa Bay Task Force on Human Trafficking, a group led by law enforcement that’s partially funded by the United States Department of Justice and supported by a large number of volunteer organizations.

According to www.blueheart.org, its efforts were “sparked by a documentary aired by the Public Broadcasting System in 2013” called “Too Close to Home: Human Trafficking in Tampa Bay.” The film provided “an alarming account of the human trafficking hotbed” occurring all over Florida.

The local CAHT organization is an all-volunteer nonprofit that focuses on building awareness and educating people about the crisis, what can be done to avoid and/or stop it, services for victims and donating funds or tangible items to at-risk youth, law enforcement, regional anti-human trafficking nonprofits, safe homes and rehabilitation centers.

The Jan. 15 forum is one of its educational outreaches. Another will be presented Jan. 21, when CAHT hosts its annual movie event at 1 p.m. in the Florida Room at the Sun City Center Community Association building at 1009 N. Pebble Beach Drive. The event will include a 50/50 raffle to raise funds for CAHT programs.

This year’s free film is “Trade,” which stars Kevin Kline as a Texas cop turned investigator in search of his missing daughter. During his quest, he forms an alliance with a 17-year-old Mexican boy who’s trying to rescue his younger sister, who’s been kidnapped by human traffickers and forced into prostitution.

Based on the book The Girls Next Door by Peter Landsman, the movie depicts “the horrors of human trafficking,” Garrison said. “It reveals the vulnerability of young teens and provides an inside look at the deplorable business of human trafficking.”

January is National Human Trafficking month, so both of these events are quite timely.  

“Many of us don’t realize that human trafficking is a huge, profitable, worldwide business,” she said. “It’s almost as big as illegal drug  trafficking, and the United States is presently the biggest buyer.

“I think the public is a bit naïve about it,” she added. “Human trafficking isn’t  a warm and fuzzy subject. It’s difficult and uncomfortable, but  it’s important for us to own it.”   

If you’d like to help, donations can be made to CAHT, P.O. Box 5491, Sun City Center, FL 33571. To volunteer or for more information, call Garrison at 813-938-5660 or email  anngarrison66@gmail.com.

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