SUN CITY CENTER — In 2009 June Wallace discovered a life-and-death problem she never knew existed in the United States — human trafficking — and her life hasn’t been the same since.
After earning many awards for raising awareness of the problem in Largo, the one-time New Yorker began forming core groups in Hillsborough soon after moving to Sun City Center in 2011.
Now there are active groups in both South County and Brandon and a third has recently been started in Tampa.
Serving as the facilitator of the Tampa Bay Community Campaign Against Human Trafficking that covers Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough Counties, Wallace says her goal is to make people aware of what is going on right in their own backyards.
“This isn’t just a problem in third-world countries,” Wallace said. “It’s happening all over the United States.”
Armed with a diploma from the Florida Regional Policing Institute at St. Petersburg College and two years of immersing herself in her work, Wallace speaks to local groups, civic and religious organizations, and has set up a day-long event that will be held Nov. 3 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Creason Hall at the Sun City Center Methodist Church, 1210 Del Webb Blvd. W., one block north of State Road 674.
The event will host a continuous round of information, including a speaker from the FBI, the mental health field, Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships Inc. of Southwest Florida, and others. It is all part of “White Ribbon Against Pornography Week” from Oct. 28 to Nov. 4.
“Pornography has become pandemic and drives the sex trafficking figures higher and higher,” Wallace said. “The average age is 13, and the life-span of an abductee is estimated at only seven years.”
Wallace has contacted many organizations across the country including the U.S. Department of Justice that produced a report stating there are between 100,000 and 300,000 children in the United States trafficked each year, with California, Florida and Texas being “hot spots.”
Presentations are being made in both English and Spanish and Wallace is encouraging area residents to inform as many people as possible to attend.
Roberto Chaple, associate pastor at the church, and Jeff Jordan, the church’s worship director, have been busy coordinating the events which include presentations in both English and Spanish, a continuous-running movie, and facts, figures and tips on how anyone can help.
“Local grocery stores have donated food and drinks for a hot dog lunch to provide food between 11 (a.m.) and 2 (p.m.). Everybody’s embraced this. Our biggest concern was for people who stay all day that may not have money to eat,” Wallace said.
When she first started her local effort, it was all about human trafficking. Then workers at the Salvation Army brought it to her attention that pornography was driving abductions for sex.
“While there are children taken for forced labor, it is mostly about sex,” she explained. “Pornography has become a tremendous addiction and can be found on many television packages right along with Disney.”
So now Wallace’s groups work on pornography alongside efforts to spread the word about trafficking.
Nola Theiss, executive director and founder of both Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships, Inc. and the Coalition Against Human Trafficking in southwest Florida, will be on hand with banners made by youth in middle and high schools.
Theiss has been working to educate the public about abductions since the 1960s, and has provided the banners with explanations that were made by youth who attended her ARTREACH presentations in school. Some of the banners show an adult in a playground lurking behind small children, while others are even more frightening.
“The explanations are in the words of the child that made the banner,” Wallace said.
Other speakers include Dr. Diana Roque, who has practiced medicine in the area for more than 20 years and has been keynote speaker at many women’s conferences; Edmond Dubreuil, founder and executive director of the Community Wellness Center located at the United Methodist Church in Sun City Center; and Kelly Murphy, victim specialist with the FBI who is active in education about trafficking and works closely with regional task forces.
The Spanish presentations will be separate and will focus on forced labor and sex trafficking,” Wallace said.
True stories of cases that have touched families he knows will be told by Wilfred Trinidad, pastor at Iglesia Bautista Fundamental Providencia in Riverview, and a survivor of child sex molestation will talk about her journey to recovery.
Alongside the live presentations, the movie “Somebody’s Daughter” will be shown continuously all day, in English with Spanish subtitles.
A video made by founders of the 50-year-old Morality in Media and its offshoot organization Porn Harms will also be shown.
People who cannot attend the event are encouraged to find out more about the problem and also visit the core group closest to their area. Information is available at the Porn Harms website, www.pornharms.com or by emailing Wallace at firstname.lastname@example.org.