The first GNL Alumni Continuing Education (ACE) session of the season brought the issue of human trafficking home to about 110 members of Greater Naples Leadership. The topic, “Human Trafficking: In our own Backyard??,” kept attendees’ rapt attention and pulled at our heart strings as we heard how bad human trafficking is globally, domestically, in Florida, and yes, in our own backyard . . . Collier County. Here are just a few facts that were shared by our panelists:
- Florida is number three in the nation in human trafficking
- 37 victims of human trafficking were identified in SWFL in 2013, but the real numbers are much larger
- There were 14 cases under investigation in 2013 in the 10 counties in SWFL
- Collier County had almost half of those
- Worldwide there are as many as 27 million modern day slaves
- Approximately 300,000 American children are victims of human trafficking
- Human Trafficking is big business . . . $32 billion globally and $10 billion in the U.S.
The featured speaker was Guatemalan native Marta Sicajan, a survivor of human trafficking and SWFL resident, who told her heartbreaking story of years of slavery and abuse, but also shared an amazing account of freedom and inspiration, which received a standing ovation. Today, she is a happy mom, artist and advocate against human trafficking. Marta’s story actually won a Peabody Award, when a letter she wrote to young women and moms in countries where human trafficking occurs was broadcast on WGCU.
Other speakers included Alex Olivares, Coordinator of the Human Trafficking Resource Center at FGCU, Marisol Schloendorn, Human Trafficking Victim Advocate at the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, and Linda Oberhaus, Executive Director of the Shelter for Abused Women and Children. Each panelist shared cases, information on how to identify possible victims, how the organizations work together, and resources for victims in Collier County.
If you think you might know of any potential victim of human trafficking, please call 793-9176, which is the Collier County Sheriff’s criminal investigation line for human trafficking. [CAT Tieger]