Thursday, January 17, 2013

Human Sex Trafficking - Fighting an Epidemic!

Sex traffickers target children because of their vulnerability and gullibility, as well as the market demand for young victims.  Those at risk are not just high school students—studies show traffickers have been known to have victims as young as 12.

Because they target their minor victims through telephone call lines, clubs, on the street or at large public places such as sporting events or malls, or through friends or recruitment by other girls at schools and after-school programs, young girls are obviously easy prey.

However, governments and task forces are fighting this horrific and devastating epidemic, both nationally and statewide.  But not only do government agencies and law enforcement need to be involved to protect kids, parents do as well.  Parents must talk to their kids and explain human trafficking and sex trafficking to them, even to young kids. Parents must explain the various ways a trafficker or middle person might lure them into a car or get them alone, because that simple action is all it takes to become a victim, trapped and enslaved.  Sadly for parents that means being educated by reading some of the stories about survivors, and how they were originally abducted or trafficked, which is hard.  But it is also necessary.

Here are a few select United States agencies/links that describe their legislative and prevention efforts in the fight to combat trafficking and sites where parents can learn more about trafficking and become better educated and empowered to talk to their children:

For an extensive list of national and international agencies and website resources, visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway’s “Responding to Human Trafficking of Children” page.

Additionally, Florida is also working diligently to end child sex trafficking:

And Florida just hosted their first human trafficking summit.

But there are many more agencies and resources in Florida supporting victims and survivors and working to prevent trafficking as well and we will highlight a few of them in our next blog post.  So come back next week for a really uplifting post to see the great work some special organizations are doing around our state.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Sandy beaches, sunshine, surf AND sexual exploitation

Today is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and although I normally sit down and write our blog posts with ease, this post has certainly been the exception. I thought I knew a good deal about human trafficking but the more I read, the more disgusted, appalled, scared, (you can insert any number of fitting, descriptive words here) I become.

Human trafficking, sex trafficking in particular, is not only the fastest growing crime in the world, it is also one of the most profitable criminal industries in the world behind only drug trafficking and weapons dealing, but apparently not for long.  And for those who would think it is not happening in our country, in our cities, in our neighborhoods, to our children’s friends, it is time to get our heads out of the sand and see this horrific crime for what it is and stand up and do something about it.

Brothels, dance clubs, strip clubs, and massage parlors are typical industries for sex trafficking; often exploiting both documented and undocumented immigrants and foreign nationals to provide commercial sex.  There is also what is known as domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) and the commercial sexual abuse of children, and Florida is the third largest hub of human trafficking in the U.S. for DMST.  In fact, central Florida has the second highest number of child sex trafficking cases in the United States.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Sandy beaches, sunshine, surf AND sexual exploitation of children – that is what our state is becoming known for.

Please take a few minutes and become educated about this terrible, tragic crime against young women and children in our country – in our own state!  This is a very informative article; it is not easy to read, but it is essential that each and every one of us understands this issue and becomes a part of the solution! Awareness is the first step to action.

Please remember and share: Today, January 11, 2013 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.  For the 27 million people living in modern day slavery, reading this article is the least we can do! 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Human Trafficking 101

Trafficking sounds so innocent as a word, yet as an action it is such an ominous threat to our nation right now. As a nonprofit that focuses on the safety of children, sex trafficking is a concern to us as it is one of the fastest growing crimes and dangers to our young children with one million children exploited by the global commercial sex trade every year (Source: PolarisProject).

But how many people really know what it is? How many people even know it exists? And what is human trafficking?

According to the Polaris Project, human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others. As defined under U.S. federal law, victims of human trafficking include children involved in the sex trade, adults age 18 or over who are coerced or deceived into commercial sex acts, and anyone forced into different forms of "labor or services," such as domestic workers held in a home, or farm-workers forced to labor against their will.

There are two types of human trafficking, neither of which necessarily involves the smuggling of an individual, a frequently held misconception of trafficking.
Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age.
Labor trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purposes of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

And trafficking happens more frequently than we know or would care to believe.
  •  Estimates state that there are up to 27 million modern day slaves world-wide.
  • 50% of victims are children; 80% women and girls.
  • 70% of female victims are trafficked into the commercial sex trade industry.
  • The trafficking industry profits by $32 billion annually.
  • 244,000 American children and youth were estimated to be at risk of child sexual exploitation, including commercial sexual exploitation in 2000.
  • 12-14 is the average age of entry into prostitution.

And that’s just the beginning. There is so much more to this devastating story. And so there is more to this blog as well. We decided since January is a month our nation has dedicated to Human Trafficking Prevention and Awareness, we would do our part by writing every week in January on this topic to help educate and empower our readers. We hope you’ll join us for this important series; we’ll give you additional information about the reality of sex trafficking, what we need to do to protect our children, what Florida and our nation is doing to stop this crime, and we’ll tell you where to find additional resources to learn more.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Will 2013 be "The Year to Protect Children"?

2012 was a year of awakening for many Americans when it came to child safety.  Casey Anthony and Jerry Sandusky are two cases that come to mind simply because of the notoriety and media frenzy that took place surrounding them.  However, there were so many other cases last year: the students in the California classroom, many of whom didn’t even know they were abused and exploited by their teacher; the Internet stings of child pornographers across the country; the countless bullying incidents and cyberbullying deaths.  I could go on, but I believe at this point most people are aware that children in our country being bullied and abused on a regular basis. I don’t think it’s necessary for me to inundate you with cases and statistics to get my point across.

And just what is my point?  Each and every person reading this needs to step up in 2013 and do more.  One cannot know that a problem of this magnitude exists and do nothing and think that is acceptable.  These are innocent children and they need our help. It will take every one of us doing something, working together, to stop child maltreatment.

I often ask, “Why don’t people do more?” I know people are aware, how can they not be with the constant media coverage?  But I know awareness is not enough.  As I said, everyone must act if we are going to stop it.  Because it is AWARENESS + ACTION = PREVENTION! 

Maybe people don’t act because they are busy or because they have other causes they champion.  Or maybe they just don’t know what to do. I don’t want to take away from the time, efforts or money people give to other causes.  And I certainly don’t want to add more to the already stressful lives of American families.  But I also know that with a problem of this size it will take everyone doing something, no matter how small, to stop it.

So I decided to start the year off with a great blog for you – a list of things you can do to help children, parents, businesses, and communities – a list of ways to get involved.  Some are easy and free, while some are a bit more complex, but there is something that everyone can do.  It’s up to you to decide which ones you will choose, but I hope you will choose to do some of these throughout the year.  Imagine how great you will feel knowing that you are helping to protect children and prevent the abuse and unspeakable maltreatment that occurs behind closed doors, sometimes right on our own streets and neighborhoods.

  • Volunteer your time or attend a fundraiser for Monique Burr Foundation (MBF) or your own favorite child abuse prevention charity.
  • Take a class to learn more about sexual abuse prevention or recognizing and reporting abuse so you are an informed citizen and can help a child in need.  Learn more about prevention trainings on our website.
  • Call your local school(s) or school district to confirm they are using our Speak Up Be Safe™ (SUBS) bullying and child abuse prevention curriculum in their school or in all elementary schools.
  • Learn more about what Florida schools are doing to not only educate children, but to keep them safe as well at
  • Give up one coffee or one lunch out a week and donate that money each month to MBF for our SUBS program.  That money can fund the program for nearly 90 students in one school year.
  • Talk to your own children about important safety issues. Use the resources available on the MBF website and blog to help you become more comfortable and find ways to start those conversations.
  • Learn more about the signs of abuse from the Department of Children & Families and Lauren’s Kids; find materials and resources about sexual abuse prevention, including a link to the Safer, Smarter Kids interactive parent toolkit from Lauren’s Kids at
  • Link to MBF’s website and blog on your own personal and/or professional website and email and ask your friends, professional contacts, and your child’s school to do the same.  Add a link to this blog post in your email signature to help us spread the word. Let’s make 2013 the Year to Protect Children!
  • Talk to other parents about tough topics such as bullying, abuse, and sexting, etc., because only when we all start talking about these topics will they become less taboo, and only then will we change the culture of secrecy and silence that allows them to continue.
  • Write letters to your congressional leaders (state and federal) and ask them to support legislation and provide funding to support prevention education for students and school staff as well as other youth serving organizations.
  • Be available and present in your children’s lives even if you are busy with your own life. Monitor online use, learn more about technology (use our online resources and blog) and know what they are doing.  Don’t assume a one-time talk with them is sufficient.  Predators are adept at finding the gaps in children’s safety nets and using them to their advantage.  Make sure your child’s safety net is secure.
  • Ask about child protection policies wherever you take your children (learn more about safe policies in an upcoming blog series) and if an organization doesn’t have them or won’t create them, take your child elsewhere.  You are not only being an advocate for your child, you are letting the agency know this is an important issue they need to address.

MBF thanks you for partnering with us to protect children this year. Make sure you come back to leave a comment and tell us what you’re doing to help make 2013 the Year to Protect Children. We’d love to hear from you!