Priority for Victim Safe Houses in Florida

Responding to calls for more resources to help children and adults trafficked for sex and labor, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is focused on opening and funding specialized safe houses. Bondi’s vocal support for safe houses comes as her office wages an aggressive public relations campaign replete with anti-trafficking billboards, online training tools for police and partnerships with business such as truck stops and motels — where children are often bought and sold for sex.

The state’s Safe Harbor Act, passed in 2012, paved the way for victims to receive care instead of a jail time, but the law is weak in that it does not require police to refer prostituted children to shelters nor does it adequately fund shelters. Adding to the problem is the need of prosecutors and detectives to stabilize sex trafficking victims, many of whom are suffering from drug addiction and conditions similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Those victims are also usually the primary witnesses against their traffickers and are sometimes placed in juvenile jails or on mental health holds because few beds are available in the state’s two authorized safehouses.

When asked if her office would support a mandatory loc kdown policy, Bondi said her office sees these children as victims, not criminals. “They are victims,” she said. “No one should ever want to lock them up.”

Learn more at J. David McSwane’s Herald-Tribune article: Bondi: Safehouses for trafficking victims a priority.

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