Advocate: Jacksonville needs to do better in protecting young girls from sex trafficking

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Tucked away in an industrial part of the Westside sits a small store. It sells jewelry, purses and scarves and each tells a story of abuse and survival.

"They were capable of this all along and no one gave them the opportunity," said Kristin Keen, founder and president of Rethreaded.

All items are handmade by women who survived the sex trade -- women like Katerina Rosenblatt, who was forced into prostitution at the age of 13.

She's written two books about her experience and started a nonprofit, called

"It's a betrayal of trust and at 13 all you have to give is your trust," said Rosenblatt.

Local advocates said Jacksonville does a poor job of prevention.

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Dr. Lawanda Ravoira, president and CEO of the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, said keeping girls safe means identifying the most vulnerable before the traffickers do.

"When we look at intake for the girls who are coming into the juvenile justice system, seven out of 10 of our girls are suffering from trauma," said Ravoira.

Just last year, 47 girls were committed to razor-wire facilities in Duval County. Compare that to 18 in Miami-Dade, 11 in Broward and seven in Hillsborough County.

RELATED: Proposed human trafficking laws draw criticism

"I think we should be shocked because as a community we can do better and we are really at a crossroads. Do we want to invest in treatment and intervention or do we want to continue to send our girls away to lock-up facilities?" said Ravoira.
Ravoira said right now, there is no local program to address the needs of girls who enter the system with histories of mental trauma.

Right now, they're working with elementary school-aged girls, specifically those who have been suspended or face disciplinary issues. Ravoira said it's being able to intervene at that early stage in their lives that will make all the difference and begin to start chipping away at our local problem.

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