Human trafficking is an international epidemic. There are more people enslaved today than any other time in history, via this $150 billion dollar industry that counts 40.3 million people enslaved. Those exploited are 71% women; 29% men; 25% children. 5.4 out of every 1,000 people are enslaved in the world.
A group of Hernando-based agencies aims to address and do something about this issue; and two upcoming area events will offer information on–and make a strong statement about–human trafficking,
Sometimes, it is the silent expression that resounds the loudest. This is definitely the case with the Walk for Freedom; a free event to protest human/sex trafficking that will take place 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 16 at Family First Assembly church, 12435 Spring Hill Dr., Spring Hill.
This event is one of many being hosted nationally by A21 (www.A21.org), a national organization committed to the fight against human trafficking. This event is being sponsored by the Hernando Christian Ministerial Association (HCMA), which is a cooperative of more than 25 multi-denominational churches in Hernando County.
“Exploitation and trafficking is no longer limited to major urban cities,” said Cesar Omar De Pablo, Hernando Christian Ministerial Association (HCMA). “As you would expect, we are excited to host this event in our county and anxious to expose the evils of the industry through our silent walk. If we can save one life through our demonstration, it will be well worth it.”
Parking and registration will be at the church, with the walk running along the sidewalks of Spring Hill Drive to the intersection of Spring Hill Dr. and Mariner Blvd. After returning to the church, vendors and other organizations with local opportunities and information will be available on joining the fight against Human Trafficking.
“We believe that every step we take locally leaves footprints globally,” said De Pablo. “Every dollar fundraised, every poster seen, every person made aware of the issue of human trafficking, add up to one Global impact – a world where everyone is free.”
De Pablo especially would like to alert parents about the dangers posed through computers, phones, and social media.
“These days, handing a phone to a child can be like handing them a loaded gun,” he said. “So much access to people who could groom and hurt them. So much access to violent pornography.”
And women are disproportionately targeted as well.
“Our culture has gotten worse in terms of the exploitation and treatment,” he said.
De Pablo sees “education and nonviolent protest” among the toughest weapons against the anti-trafficking movement.
“We will do God’s work and protect the vulnerable. We will not be silent,” he said. “It’s time for the community to make their voice heard.”
Register for the walk at http://a21.org/spring-hill to participate. All are welcome.
If you have any questions about this walk please contact at [email protected]
Should you have any general questions about A21 or the global Walk For Freedom email [email protected]21.org. If you’re interested in donating to this cause or event please visit: https://www.a21.org/fundraising/hernando-county/walk-for-freedom–spring-hill
A Human Trafficking Event for Middle & High School Students Boxed Dinner will take place Oct. 19, with dinner being served at 5-6 pm and the program taking place at 6 pm at the CK-8 Cafeteria of Challenger K8, 13400 Elgin Blvd, Spring Hill, FL 34609-0401. This free event will be sponsored by Rotary Clubs of Hernando County and MFCS, Inc. Children’s Advocacy Center of Hernando County, and The Greene Foundation.
“We will be hearing from experts and peers on the latest apps that they are being solicited on,” read an event description. “It will also discuss the dangers and consequences of sexting, gaming, recognizing what online sex trafficking looks like, and how to protect themselves online. The goal is to raise awareness of the techniques traffickers use to groom kids online so they can be safe on social media.”
This marks the second session in a two-part human trafficking event that is the brainchild of Janine Kell, program manager at MFCS, Inc. Children’s Advocacy Center of Hernando County. The first session, which took place Oct. 5, provided vital human trafficking information, of a more graphic nature, for parents. It drew 72 participants.
“At Rotary, we have made it our mission to fight human trafficking at national and international levels,” said Carol Sitroon, president of Rotary Club of Spring Hill. “We must educate parents about and make people aware of this issue. This is a widespread problem, especially here in Florida. And here in Hernando, we’re standing up.”
Kell agrees. “People need to know what to look for, parents and children,” she said. “So much sexual exploitation happens online, with 60 percent of human trafficking cases starting on social media.”
“It’s getting worse,” said Kell. “We need to raise awareness.”
Because above all else, the fight against human trafficking isn’t just organizational. It’s personal.
“I’m the grandmother of a 13-year-old girl,” said Sitroon. “This matters to me.”
Call 352-754-8809 or use the Eventbrite link to register for A Human Trafficking Event for Middle & High School Students Boxed Dinner. (Register at https://qrgo.page.link/9MnXu)