Florida Groups Unite to Fight Human Trafficking

Because we live in such a sexualized society, it is sometimes hard for people to understand or see the difference between entertainment and exploitation, according to Sherry Kitchens, director of the Child Advocacy Center in Gainesville. Nonprofit organizations like Gainesville-based FIGHT — Fight Injustice & Global Human Trafficking Inc. — go to battle for those who cannot fight for themselves, particularly girls who are being exploited sexually.

Richard Tovar, the president of FIGHT, said, “The problem with sex trafficking here in the United States is that we don’t want to see it. We think of sex trafficking as something that happens in Southeast Asia, in Cambodia and Thailand.”

Assistant U.S District Attorney Frank Williams said that with more than 20 years of dealing with cases that involve children being sexually abused and trafficked, he has had little hope for a way to help control this problem — until now. “I have wondered for many years what is the solution to stop the victimizing of children, and I finally realized the youth is the solution,” he said. “People have to understand that it is not about ‘me,’ it is about ‘us.’ ”

Nicole Ferranti a DCF investigator, said, “Now I realize that kids, even teenagers, don’t typically just become bad kids for no reason. Do some kids fall under peer pressure to get caught up? Yes. But the majority of the time, it is due to something else. It may not be something that quite rises to the legal definition of abuse or neglect, but there is probably something going on, and so it has opened my eyes to looking at teenagers differently.”

Tovar said FIGHT looks at the problem via a business model, looking at supply and demand. “The only reason why these girls are being used for sex is because men are buying. There is market,” he said.

Since FIGHT first started four years ago, it has focused on three steps on how to educate the public on this dark market, Tovar said. Stop participation, get informed and be involved.

Learn more at Sabrina Alvarez’s Gainesville Sun article: Local groups unite to battle human trafficking.

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