Human trafficking in our own backyard
By Alyson Ferrer
Special to the Star-Banner
Published: Sunday, September 16, 2012 at 6:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 14, 2012 at 7:21 p.m.
Human trafficking is the second fastest growing form of organized crime (just behind drug trafficking) in the United States, and children account for almost half of its victims — although many of these cases remain unknown because the victims live in such fear they remain silent.
Trafficking is a $32 billion industry with nearly half of that coming from industrialized countries. Children are abducted and sold for sex, domestic help is kept in captivity and wages withheld, and women are forced into prostitution and made to forfeit their earnings.
This crime is not biased to countries afar, it occurs domestically here in the United States, and in our own "Sunshine State." Although the media does not offer much information on the subject, human trafficking is a real problem that is literally growing in our backyard.
A conference on human trafficking is being held from 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 6 at College Road Baptist Church and is free to the public. Speakers from various organizations will be providing useful information as well as a story of survival, "Beauty From Ashes." I urge the public to attend and gather useful information that may rescue victims and help prevent or protect potential victims.
Here are some facts, according to the State of Florida Department of Children and Families, about the 55 human trafficking victims served in Florida in 2010:
-- 33 were male, and 22 were female;
-- 52 were adults and three were children;
-- 50 were labor trafficking victims;
-- Five were sex trafficking victims.
Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, and it is alive and thriving. This conference will provide information to the public and awareness of the magnitude of this crime. As stated earlier, many victims live in fear and remain silent; therefore, awareness is the key to addressing this growing problem here the United States.
According to the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking, our state has been identified as a hub for human trafficking activity, citing one of the highest incidences of human trafficking in the country. This crime affects all types of individuals, both foreign and domestic.
Just recently, a 72-year-old Belleview man was arrested for downloading images of child pornography. The images displayed children engaging in sexual acts. Where do you think these children came from?
As a community, we need to be informed and take action against acts of human trafficking. We live in a society that still allows slavery and abuse. We need to progress and be a catalyst for change, please plan on attending this event.
Alyson Ferrer is an Ocala mother and college student who volunteers with Women at Risk, an international organization that advocates for human trafficking victims.