Outreach group to drop the F-bomb -- friend -- to reduce human sex trafficking of kids
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06/08/14 Janelle Irwin
WMNF Drive-Time News Monday
Tags: Human Trafficking, sex trafficking, Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, Prostitution, 2-1-1

A local group is trying to get kids out of human sex trafficking. The Crisis Center of Tampa bay launched a campaign Monday called “Drop the F-bomb.” The F stands for friends and will teach teens the signs and dangers of human sex-trafficking. David Braughton is the president and CEO of the group. He spoke to WMNF about the campaign.

"Our mission at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay is to insure that no one faces crisis alone and so we're always looking out into the community for where are the biggest areas of need. Where might somebody have to go through a dark time without anybody to help? Certainly human trafficking is a growing problem in our country. A problem that most people misunderstand. While there are about 15,000 people who are imported every year in traffic, usually for labor and sometimes for sex. In our own country over 200,000 people are trafficked each year, mostly for sex. We saw this as an area that we wanted to do something about and particularly addressing those people who are most vulnerable, most at risk, which are the kids. The average age of entry into prostitution is 11 or 12. The average life expectancy is about 11 years. So we thought that the earlier we could get to kids and hopefully grab their attention the better off we would be."

I think a lot of people when they hear human trafficking they think of people from other countries who are basically sold into modern day slavery but this is a problem that affects our own children here who are already in the country. How is that identified and what are you trying to do to reduce this from happening?

"We know that about 200,000 people domestically are trafficked each year. The majority of those are kids. Kids who have maybe run away from home, kids who are in foster care. The challenge with trafficking is that it doesn't know any social or economic limits. Kids from very stable middle class families can also be trafficked. Usually the way it happens is that there is a pimp who will groom the child, who will lay love on them, maybe buy them gifts and so on. And the child is going through those transitional years where she or he needs that kind of attention. Here this person is offering it and offering it very generously. That's why children are particularly vulnerable no matter what their background is and why it is so important that we speak to those kids."

This campaign, what is your intention here, what are you hoping to accomplish by educating kids about this problem?

"We know that the child who is being trafficked or being groomed to be trafficked is probably not aware of what's going on. It's a very gradual process and often because they think that they're in love they really are blind to what is happening to them. The campaign is really geared towards their friends. The kids who go to school with them who can see that suddenly their best friend who maybe comes from a single parent household is suddenly wearing brand new clothes and jewelry and is now talking about this older man in her life who is taking care of her in a way that she never experienced before. As we create awareness then we are also giving these kids a place to call, 211. Where they can report what's going on with their friend and then we can notify the proper authorities so that at the very least someone can look into it and make sure that nothing unseemly or untoward is happening."

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