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Rotary Happenings: Human trafficking topic of Rotary Club meeting

By Staff | Nov 22, 2017

Just below the surface of our global society lies a sinister network of human traffickers. People who prey on the most vulnerable for profit. “Human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons or modern-day slavery, is a crime that involves compelling or coercing a person to provide labor or services, or to engage in commercial sex acts. The coercion can be subtle or overt, physical or psychological, and may involve the use of violence, threats, lies, or debt bondage. Exploitation of a minor for commercial sex is human trafficking, regardless of whether any form of force, fraud, or coercion was used. Human trafficking does not require travel or transportation of the victim across local, state or international borders,” as defined by government authorities. Human trafficking is at a critical level in Florida. Florida ranks third in cases of human trafficking crimes in our nation.

Sanibel-Captiva Rotary’s guest speaker recently, Nola Theiss, founder and executive director of Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships in Fort Myers and former Sanibel resident, city council member, and Mayor of Sanibel has been involved with bringing mindfulness of this type of crime to the public for the last 11 years with help from her partnering connections with police agencies, social services, nonprofit organizations, educators, service clubs, and government officials. The Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships (HTAP) is the outgrowth of a Sanibel Zonta club project with HTAP co-founder, Karen Pati, who now serves as the president of HTAP’s Board of Directors.

Sanibel-Captiva Rotary helped with financial support for HTPA and getting started with organizing the first task force with partnering agencies and police and continues today with supporting their premier outreach program ARTREACH to youth throughout our geographic area of Southwest, Florida.

Nola speaks at a number of organizations and businesses trying to shed light on what are the warning signs of someone trying to manipulate a person that the human trafficker predator has identified as prey and recently has been invited into the schools to educate students on the likely techniques these predators use in recruitment of the young and vulnerable. We have all heard of the use of computers for predators for recruiting young victims, getting them to trust them, having them send them sexy pictures, tell them how beautiful or handsome they are, how special they are, that they truly understand them, and could they meet them, but don’t tell their parents. This doesn’t only happen on-line, it can happen in person. Nola gave these statistics11 percent of young human trafficking victims are kidnapped, 30 percent are trafficked by family or friends, drugs can play a role in coercing a person into prostitution.

Child trafficking victims, like other trafficking victims, come from many backgrounds and include both boys and girls across a wide range of ages from different races and religions.

Stranger Danger!!! Watch out for someone older telling you are mature for your age, he probably wants something you’re not old enough to give him. If you look like you need something: help, directions, a ride, money- traffickers know that’s the best time to approach you.

For not only children, but adults some tell-tale signs of human trafficking victims are: sample examples. lack of control, restricted contact with others, poor mental health, abnormal behavior, fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous, poor physical health, shows sign of abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture. Lack of basic knowledge, where they are living, has numerous inconsistencies of his/her story. Unique physical traitsbranding, appears to be abusing substances.

HTAP has found that their ARTREACH Program is probably their most effective programming tool to reach young people in stressful situation in lifethey present an information program and get the kids to open-up through discussion and creating art. They are encouraged to collaborate on art pieces that reflex their own experiences and express their feelings.

Nola brought with her a brand-new, just of the press, beautifully designed, art book filled with artwork produced by students participating in the ARTREACH program and financially supported by islanders, Judith Brust, Ada Shissler, and generous anonymous donors. Hopefully you will get a chance to see this book yourself, it illustrates the impact that these types of crimes can and do make on young people and you definitely see the value in this program. If any of the programs presented by the HTAP saves only one victim from this type of horrendous crime, Nola knows that her and HTAP’s effort has made a difference.

Maybe a copy will be at the library. For more information you can contact Nola at 239-415-2635 or 877-395-1737.

Sanibel-Captiva Rotary meets Friday morning at 7:00 a.m., at the Dunes Golf & Tennis Club, Sanibel. Guests welcomed. No meeting Thanksgiving week.