Sex trafficking victim to tell her story at symposium
At an upcoming symposium, Out Of Bondage: Combating Sex Trafficking in South Florida, local human trafficking survivor Katariina Rosenblatt will tell her story.
The symposium, set for 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at Temple Torah in Boynton Beach, is sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women, Palm Beach County Sections and Jewish Women's Foundation of the Greater Palm Beaches.
Rosenblatt's story is at once horrific and at the same time, cliché.
The founder of the nonprofit There is H.O.P.E. For Me, which helps survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking, Rosenblatt is a survivor who works with law enforcement to combat the practice and help the victims.
A Miami native now in her mid-30s, Rosenblatt said, "I was recruited in middle school by a 'friend,' and became addicted to cocaine."
Coming from a home with an abusive father and a mother who was a victim of domestic violence, Rosenblatt said she was needy and vulnerable and the traffickers preyed on her weakness.
She said she experienced four different episodes of recruitment each lasting a few weeks. She was kidnapped, taken to a brothel in Broward County, escaped, captured again and experienced constant intimidation, threats and bullying by her traffickers.
She was drugged, almost killed and abandoned on the side of the road.
According to the Florida National Organization for Women, the U.S. Department of State estimates that internationally about 600,000 to 800,000 mostly women and children are trafficked annually.
About 17,500 to 20,000 victims are trafficked into the U.S. annually, with Florida receiving a high percentage of those victims, along with New York and California, according to FNOW.
The average age of a girl who is sex trafficked is 12 to 14 and four out of five victims in sex trafficking cases in the U.S. are American citizens.
Human trafficking is a highly profitable industry, even more so than drugs, because of the high demand and low risk.
At a meeting convened last July by U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, State Attorney Dave Aronberg said, "It's a clear and present danger in our community right now. This is a top priority for this office."
Co-chairwomen Arlene Davidson and Linda Geller-Schwartz learned about the issue of sex trafficking at a seminar in Tallahassee, in which they heard Wendi Adelson, a professor at Florida State University College of Law speak about her book, "This is Our Story," a fictionalized account of her work with victims of the commercial sex trade.
"I knew nothing about this issue and learning about it, changed my life," Davidson said.
Geller-Schwartz, a former professor at Florida Atlantic University, said, "The more I hear about this subject, the more surprised and troubled I get."
"One out of three children who run away is trafficked within 48 hours," she said. "It's a $32 billion industry across the world."
"Most people don't realize it is happening in their own neighborhoods. It's not only in Thailand. We want to draw attention to this issue and heighten awareness."
"Our goal is three-fold," Davidson said. "Awareness and advocacy, education and community service."
Speakers include Lauren Hersh, King's County District Attorney's Office; State Attorney Dave Aronberg; Barbara Martinez, Assistant U.S. Attorney; Julie Chaikin Hogan, Deputy Statewide Prosecutor; Patricia Vazquez, Regional Criminal Justice Coordinator, DCF; Ted Deutch, U.S. House of Representatives; and Dave Kerner, State Representative, District 87.
The symposium is free and open to everyone, but registration is required. Call Geller-Schwartz at 561-362-8069 or sign up athttp://tinyurl.com/Jan21symposium.