Human Trafficking Exploitation: The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Youth

Florida’s landmark Safe Harbor legislation was enacted in 2012 and work has continued each subsequent legislative session to strengthen and expand laws impacting victims of trafficking. These laws recognize that commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC) are victims – not criminals – and encourage understanding and therapeutic treatment rather than prosecution, court sanctions or jail.

Florida’s First Pilot of a Promising Public-Private Partnership

Florida ranks third in the nation for reports of human trafficking. To enhance service delivery and improve outcomes for male and female victims up to age 24, Voices for Florida is implementing the Open Doors Outreach Network, a promising coordinated system serving trafficked and exploited victims. The Open Doors model was custom built for Florida by adapting the most promising best practices in use in other states into one transformative, victim-centered approach.

The Open Doors Outreach Network is piloting services in six Florida regions- Northeast Florida, North Coastal, Big Bend, Central Florida, Suncoast and Southwest Florida- with plans to expand statewide. This pilot program aims to increase care coordination by offering immediate and ongoing care to victims through a highly trained Open Doors team of professionals consisting of Survivor-Mentors, Regional Advocates and Clinicians.

Trafficking Victims are among the State’s Most Vulnerable Children

Sex traffickers prey on children with low self-esteem and minimal support systems. Children who are homeless, suffering with mental health problems, in foster care or past or current victims of abuse and neglect are especially vulnerable. Sexual exploitation trauma requires effective emergency response, specific and high-level treatment with the consent and voluntary cooperation of the victim and a coordinated system of care. Service identification and navigation by truly knowledgeable staff and volunteers is absolutely necessary.

Support

  • Continue support of Open Doors: The 2016 Florida Legislature appropriated $500,000 in general revenue funding to support the creation of a total victim care coordinating office for Open Doors. It also earmarked federal Victim of Crime Act funds for a pilot of direct services, which were awarded in April 2017. This is the state’s first public-private partnership utilizing promising best practices to immediately and expertly serve this population. Continuity and expansion of funding to serve other areas will be needed.
  • Adhere to the original intent of Safe Harbor laws: Survivors of sexual exploitation and trafficking must continue to be treated as victims rather than criminals.
  • Ensure that funding follows the child, rather than allocating resources by formula or silos: Victims need multiple levels of services and better use of all available funds will address the significant gaps that currently exist.

Legislation

What The Children’s Campaign is Saying…

Additional Resources

Disclaimer: These links to third-party websites are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only. They do not constitute an endorsement or approval by The Children’s Campaign or its affiliate organizations and partners.

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