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School district, Latino Coalition discuss human trafficking resources in Tampa | Tampa | #childpredator | #onlinepredator | #sextrafficing

The Student Online Safety event brought awareness and resources

Hillsborough County Public Schools, in partnership with the Latino Coalition, hosted a “Student Online Safety” panel on Aug. 23 regarding human trafficking and online safety resources in Tampa Bay.

The panel of experts, featuring representatives of nine organizations, provided their insight into the dangers of human trafficking and how parents can keep their children safe online.

Also present were school district leaders, including board chair Nadia Combs, interim school superintendent Van Ayres and board member Lynn Gray.

The Department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as the act of using “force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” Traffickers look for people who are easy targets for a variety of reasons, including psychological or emotional vulnerability, economic hardship, and lack of a social safety net.

In the U.S., Tampa has the third-most cases of human trafficking — making it a huge concern within its population.

As a result, in 2018 Gray created one of the few public schools human trafficking task forces.

“To me (human trafficking) is very worrisome. How am I supposed to protect students?” she said. “How am I going to do that if I’m not at least making our school, district and communities aware?”

Since then, Gray has been working with several local organizations to raise awareness and spread information about this rising issue.

Interim school Superintendent Van Ayres said that his No. 1 priority is student safety.

Paving the Way Foundation

Paving the Way Foundation is a professional nonprofit run by a group of business experts committed to disrupting the cycle of child trafficking through educational and training programs.

Its goal is to educate children and parents about human trafficking, share possible recruitment and grooming tactics, empower kids with the knowledge about human trafficking and actions to take to stay safe, and prevent them from being lured into this crime.

“It takes less than 17 minutes for an online predator to entice a child to send an inappropriate picture. Most parents don’t know that,” said Jan Edwards, president of Paving the Way Foundation. “Having our parents educated and our kids educated to what’s happening can actually disrupt the cycle.”

Paving the Way Foundation has over five different programs in which it tackles teen and parent technology talks, safety guides and human trafficking panels.

For more information visit pavingthewayfoundation.org.

Selah Freedom

Selah Freedom is a faith-based nonprofit anti-human trafficking organization, based in Florida and the Midwest, with the mission to end sex trafficking and bring freedom to the exploited through five programs: awareness, prevention, outreach, residential and organizational consulting.

It has a curriculum from all ages, starting from kindergarten to 12th grade and adults. As children in the early stages of life are not able to grasp the reality of human trafficking, Selah Freedom explains to them what a safe adult is and what an unsafe adult is. For older kids, experts explain the crime and facilitate information on what human trafficking encompasses.

For more information visit selahfreedom.com

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has a human trafficking special investigations unit comprised of 10 agents who are highly trained and available 24/7 to put their boots on the ground to carry out cases from start to recovery.

“For the last two years, we have successfully recovered women, men, juveniles and adults from this lifestyle,” said Sgt. Ashley Lindemann. “Our detectives work day in and day out to build a rapport with these individuals. Our squad works well together and we’re constantly going through human trafficking courses. We’re doing operations proactively so that we can get in the community and make people feel comfortable with discussing some of these hard topics.”

For more information visit the Special Investigations Division at teamhcso.com.

The NOMORE Foundation

The NOMORE Foundation connects people to care for the most vulnerable in the community through two programs: NOMORE orphans and NOMORE slavery.

Within the anti-trafficking initiative, the foundation focuses mainly on education and training. Over the last three years, it has been able to train over 75,000 people with its partnership with the Hillsborough County School District.

This year it launched its new human trafficking one-on-one training that incorporates and looks at how traffickers are using social media and technology to groom kids in America.

For more information visit declarenomore.com.

First Priority of Tampa Bay

First Priority of Tampa Bay is a faith-based group that works in middle and high schools that provides leadership development, interpersonal skills training, and ongoing support to help students be successful.

For more information visit firstprioritytampa.org.

Miel y Canela Foundation

The Miel y Canela Foundation creates provides critical services to victims of abuse, domestic violence and human trafficking through partnerships to feed, heal, provide shelter, and educate all people regardless of age, gender, race, and socioeconomic status. Its Florida 3-2-1 Anti-Trafficking Campaign brings awareness, prevention and education to the community, schools, churches, and leadership both locally, nationally and internationally.

“We cater to not only the Hispanic population, but also to the Brazilian, Creole, Haitian and Ukranian minorities in Tampa Bay,” said Jeannette Matta, founder and chief executive of the Miel y Canela Foundation.

For more information visit mycfoundation.com.

Victims 2 Survivors

Victims 2 Survivors is a survivor-led social justice, anti-sex trafficking organization working towards eradicating human trafficking and supporting survivors by taking a community approach to addressing this public health and social justice crisis.

Victims 2 Survivors’ different initiatives bring together stakeholders to start the conversation and get out in the community to spread awareness.

“You never know where that perpetrator is. You never know who that trafficker is because there are many, many faces,” said Connie Rose, survivor and founder of Victims 2 Survivors. “If you saw my father, you would not know that he had over 300 victims, and you would not know that he was a serial sex offender. And that he was a trafficker.”

For more information visit victims2survivorsus.org.

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