Place of Hope, the largest faith-based, family-style children’s organization in the southern region of the United States, recently hosted a Human Trafficking Awareness Brunch to promote dialogue across the community.

The occasion,welcomed individuals to discuss the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring and/or receipt of youth for exploitation purposes. With Florida ranking third in the nation regarding human trafficking, many point to these events as imperative in stopping the problem.

“Unfortunately, the U.S. has come to know human trafficking far too well,” said Tal Gir, junior. “There are numerous organizations out there to help people escape it, but we need awareness to make a change.”

The sold-out event underscored the importance of being completely aware of one’s surroundings when in public, especially in these areas: movie theaters, grocery stores and parking lots. Also, Place of Hope highlighted multiple ways to address witnessing these activities.

“At the event, I saw how human trafficking is a terrible epidemic globally, but the continuous issue is that no one says anything until it is too late,” said Lauryn Harris, sophomore. “It’s crazy to see that these things are happening locally in our backyard.”

In addition to prevention techniques, participants at Place of Hope’s Brunch considered the role of online dating in relation to human trafficking. With the open nature of the internet and social media sphere, the threat of encountering an individual with a hidden agenda is far greater than ever.

“We saw how traffickers are targeting teens and young adults,” said Gir. “The situation is much more dangerous than people realize.”

Individuals who feel they might be in danger of coming across human sex trafficking or know somehow in such a situation are encouraged to contact the national hotline at (888) 373-7888.

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