In a bold move earlier this month, Florida's State Board of Education voted unanimously to require schools to teach human trafficking prevention in all K-12 schools.
Governor Ron DeSantis commented, "Tragically, human trafficking is an epidemic in our country. Children of all ages need to know and understand the hazards of human trafficking and how to protect themselves from dangerous predators."
The commissioner requires Florida schools to provide their implementation plan by Dec. 1. Additionally, they must post an implementation plan to the school's website for parents to review. Specifically, this plan must include the professional qualifications for the person tasked with teaching. Also, it must outline the materials, resources, and instruction type that will be used for each grade.
Students will only be able to opt out of this teaching with signed, parental consent.
Schools must submit documentation verifying completion of the prevention training annually by July 1.
Geoff Rogers, CEO and co-founder of the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking, commented, "Florida continues to lead the nation in the fight against human trafficking by being the first state in the country to mandate every student in K-12 to receive child trafficking prevention and require every school in the state to declare itself a child trafficking free zone."
How Is Human Trafficking Defined
According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, human trafficking is the means by which individuals are forcibly or fraudulently coerced into some type of labor or sex act. However, sex trafficking is the most reported form of trafficking reported.
Several factors contribute to the likelihood that an individual will be targeted for trafficking. For some, they may have endured economic hardship or a natural disaster. Others, however, are targeted for appearing mentally or emotionally unstable or for lacking a secured, social circle.
How Big Is the Problem?
A common misconception is that human trafficking only happens in poverty-stricken countries. But research has concluded otherwise.
—Florida ranks third in the nation for human trafficking, according to the Human Trafficking Hotline.
—Of the estimated 30 million people world-wide enslaved in human trafficking, 2.5 million of them live in America, per the Florida Department of Education.
—One out of 7 endangered runaway youth is likely a victim of human trafficking, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
—In 2018, the National Human Trafficking Hotline received 10,949 calls. Of them, 7,859 were sex-trafficking related, per the hotline's website.
—Since 2012, each of Florida's counties have reported at least one case of human trafficking, also according to the Human Trafficking Hotline's website.
—For sexual exploitation reasons, one child is trafficked every two minutes. This is according to the U.S. Department of Justice, cited at the Florida Department of Education's website.
Are Pornography & Sex Trafficking Related?
Yes. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, pornography is the fourth leading industry for sex trafficking.
Rebekah Charleston, director for Valiant Hearts, a nonprofit organization seeking to end sexual exploitation, was once a victim of trafficking herself. She stated, "Where you have porn, you have trafficking ..."
According to Porn Harms Research directed by The National Center on Sexual Exploitation, the use of pornography serves as a marketing tool for sex trafficking. Additionally, they cite that pornography is shown to groom trafficked women and children so they will know what to do when having to perform sex acts.
Many people blindly believe that those starring in pornographic videos are doing so consensually. However, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reports, "The trauma caused by the traffickers can be so great that many may not identify themselves as victims or ask for help, even in highly public settings."
The Truth About Victims
In an article published in the Dallas Morning News, Charleston spoke about working with police departments who set up sting operations. Posing as potential clients, they create online posts to lure individuals to a hotel room. Once the person arrives, law enforcement officers will give them an ultimatum. Either they can go to jail or accept Valiant Hearts' offer to help. However, many of the trafficked individuals decline the help—believing initially that it is their choice. She shared that this is often difficult for law enforcement officers to understand.
"It's because we've been coerced and manipulated to believe that. We believe that somehow we chose to be exploited."
Charleston shared that she didn't realize the truth of her situation until talking to a friend. The woman, who had escaped trafficking herself, asked what would happen if Rebekah said she didn't want to go to work.
"And I just started laughing because that would have never happened. I worked 20 hours a day. I was labor trafficked all day in our businesses, and I was sex trafficked all night. And I worked every birthday, every holiday. I remember working 9/11. So the idea that one day I would tell him I didn't want to go was ludicrous, but it was that light bulb moment for me of thinking, What choices did I really have?"
The Importance of Awareness
In light of the growth of the human trafficking industry, one can conclude that it is of utmost importance for children to be educated on prevention techniques. They need to learn the warning signs. For kids who feel threatened or fear they are being groomed for trafficking, they need to know that it's okay to get help. And finally, children need to have their identity validated based on who they are, and not on how they can perform.
Florida's Department of Education reports that the average age a child will be trafficked into the sex industry is between 11-14 years old. The most commonly targeted kids are those who live in an unstable family environment, or those who appear to have little or no social support.
A person under the age of 18 who has been induced to perform commercial sex acts is considered to be a victim of human trafficking according to U.S. federal law. This is regardless of whether the acts have been forced or coerced.
Light Bulb Moments
Often people do not realize the direct correlation between pornography and sex trafficking. And maybe that's you today. Maybe you've struggled for a really long time. You can choose to seek freedom from the grip that sexual sin has on your life.
Or maybe you realize that it's time for your church to do something. You can choose to come alongside these schools to raise awareness throughout your community. And you can also pledge to help those who are struggling with pornography or sexual addiction.
More than one million individuals in 80 countries around the world have started their journey to freedom and awareness through the use of the Conquer Series.
The Conquer Series is a cinematic course that highlights how men can find lasting freedom. Combining science and Scripture, it outlines why trying harder does not work and how the brain has been changed through the viewing of sexually explicit content. Additionally, individuals learn about the process of renewing their mind and finding their identity in Christ.
Nate in Iowa shared, "I have been so encouraged, motivated, challenged and otherwise uplifted by the Conquer Series. I love the use of science (within the worldview of Scripture) to understand addiction."
As long as the demand for pornography still exists, trafficking of innocent men and women will not cease to exist. Make the choice to become part of the solution.
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