Sex trafficking symposium raises awareness in SWFL
Photo: Video by fox4now.com
FORT MYERS, Fla. - The Children's Network of Southwest Florida is raising awareness for human trafficking. Counselors hosted a workshop, "Out of the Shadows" in Fort Myers to kick off Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Every one the officers and counselors at a Fort Myers symposium has come in contact with a girl trafficked in southwest Florida.
"Think about them having to have sex with men 10 to 30 times a night," said Lowell Senitz, as he spoke from the podium.
Senitz and his wife, Sally, are training the more than 70 who attended how to identify victims and help them.
"What we've taught is the level of stress these girls go through and to create empathy toward these girls and realizing these have been you daughters, your grand daughters," explained Lowell.
From case managers and crisis counselors...
"We're teaching our system how to rehabilitate a girl," explained Lowell. "We're teaching the signs of how to recognize a child."
To law enforcement. "We say a male officers should not interview the girl, a female officer will get much more information," suggested Lowell. "They need to not wear badges and guns because that will scare the girls and they won't want to cooperate."
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, between 1000,000 to 300,000 American girls a year are victims of sex slavery. And Florida ranks third in the nation. The state's I-4 corridor is a hot bed. Every day thousands of girls are smuggled across it.
A bout three to four of those girls make it into the one long-term safe house in southwest Florida, Wings of Shelter. But it turns down another five a week in dire need of safety.
The Senitz founded that safe house after starting one in Romania several years ago.
"We're anxious to train our model which has proven successful in DCF placement and foster care homes," said Sally.
Sally says nationally, 70 percent of prostituted girls run away after placement. But their success rate here is much higher.
"In our reputation in five years, we only had two girls run away," explained Sally. "We have a slogan at Wings of Shelter: together we can make a difference."