By JARRETT TERRILL
The Broward Human Trafficking Coalition (BHTC) hosted a film viewing at The African American Research Library last Monday. The documentary film, “Not My Life” was previewed as part of Human Trafficking Awareness Week.
Adriane Reesey, the President of BHTC facilitated a panel discussion during the film’s intermission which included an impressive array of Justice Department representatives, federal law enforcement agents, victims’ advocates and social workers. The experts on the panel took turns fielding questions from the audience.
“Not My Life” is a heart-wrenching exposé from CNN about the global sex exploitation industry. One segment of the film shines a light on runaway teens in America’s heartland that are abducted, threatened, blackmailed and forced to work as prostitutes at truck stops and alongside highways. Another segment of the film introduces us to the underworld of sex trafficking in India, where hundreds of women and girls can be found locked in small containers and hidden crawlspaces behind restaurants and factories.
This was not the first film showing and panel discussion that the BHTC has conducted but their events are drawing more attention from the community lately.
The horrors of human trafficking have also made a few blips on the radars of some prominent lawmakers in Florida like Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Schultz has long been a consistent advocate for children’s safety in Congress but has recently amplified her concern in a very direct way – by addressing the actual perpetrators of crimes against children in a YouTube video.
Schultz, along with other Florida legislators and officials like Congresswoman Frederica Wilson and James Loftus of Miami-Dade Police, appear in the “Dear John Campaign” videos. The campaign, which was created by the Children’s Trust and the Women’s Fund of Miami-Dade, is focused on the perpetrators of sex trafficking rather than just the young people who are frequently being exploited against their will or intention.
In the United States, victims of sex trafficking are often jailed on prostitution charges while those who manipulate, abuse and discourage them go free. Both the BHTC and the Dear John Campaign aim to counterbalance this problem in Florida by offering support services to victims and increased apprehension of “johns” (the buyers of prostitution).
“No longer will you be able to manipulate, use and abuse them,” says Schultz in the video. “They are our children. We are standing up and saying, ‘No, not in my district.’”