It happens every year. No matter which city hosts the Super Bowl sex trafficking always makes its way into news headlines. This uptick in attention tends to fade once the big game is over. Although the spotlight shone on this heinous crime is helpful, an unintended negative consequence is the perception that victimization decreases after the game ends.
The facts tell a different story.
In fact, victimization occurs every day in our own backyards.
As the Statewide Director of the largest network of survivor informed and victim-centered services, I’ve seen firsthand the impact our state’s progress has made on the lives of sex trafficked children. One in five victims is a child. While the majority are female, men and boys are trafficked too, regardless of geography, age, sexual orientation, race and socioeconomic status. Sex trafficking has been reported in every county in Florida.
The motive of traffickers is money. Annually, the business of human trafficking globally generates an estimated $150 billion in profits. The good news is that our state has taken admirable strides to combat this greed, inhumanity and crime.
Florida is recognized as a national leader in the fight to end human trafficking. Last year, Florida became the first state in the nation to require schools to teach K-12 child trafficking prevention. Under the leadership of Attorney General Ashley Moody and the Florida Legislature, a direct-support organization was created to provide assistance, funding and support to the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking. Survivors now have their voices heard like never before with a seat at the table in policymaking, advocacy, awareness and direct services.
Despite these successes, more hard work lies ahead.
The number of individuals identifying as victims is growing. It is yet to be determined if this is due to services becoming increasingly available, the expanded awareness about the crime or more criminal activity driven by economics of the sex trafficking trade.
Florida must continue its leadership to end sex trafficking by continuing to take specific and intentional actions. Here are just a few examples:
- support programs and services to victims that offer are survivor-led and customized based on individual needs;
- adopt fair and appropriate policies that will allow for the expunction of criminal records of victims that result from offenses they committed while being trafficked;
- enact policies that remove barriers to gainful employment for survivors; and
- address policy options with stronger punishments for traffickers.
Florida has a unique opportunity during this Legislative Session to continue its strong commitment to eradicating this egregious crime by supporting policies and appropriations that support critical trauma-competent care for survivors and sends a message to traffickers that Florida is closed for business.
About the Author
Robyn Metcalf is the statewide director of the Open Doors Outreach Network, a 24/7/365 network of care for victims and survivors of sex trafficking age 10-24 in 32 Florida counties.
Metcalf received her Bachelor of Social Work degree, Masters of Social Work (MSW) with a concentration in Social Policy and Administration and Masters of Public Administration (MPA) from Florida State University. She also worked as a graduate assistant under Dean Emeritus Nick Mazza and Masters of Social Work Director Fran Gomory. In 2016, the College of Social Work recognized Robyn with the Distinguished Young Alumni Award, a prestigious award recognizing outstanding graduates within the past 10 years who have demonstrated significant leadership and exceptional contributions to social work.
Metcalf is a former Guardian ad Litem, Relay for Life of North Leon Leadership Committee Member, Volunteer Training Assistant with 211 Big Bend, and is a current member of the Junior League of Tallahassee. She also serves as Treasurer for the Florida State University College of Social Work Alumni Group.