Jacksonville nonprofit pushing to establish statewide network to help survivors of sex trafficking

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville consistently ranks third in the state for the highest number of calls to the national sex-trafficking hotline, according to the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center.

The recent case of a victim legally declared incompetent forced to have sex with strangers in a Jacksonville hotel highlights just how common the problem is.

Tamia Oliver, 20, and Demontre Clark, 25, were arrested and charged with human trafficking.

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The Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center is working to tackle the problem not only in Jacksonville, but in the whole state of Florida.

Alyssa Beck, 22, is a survivor of sex trafficking, a trade she was forced into when she was a teenager.

She works at the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center advocating for other victims.

“When I was rescued from sex trafficking, a lot of times I was put into jail, and I felt like I didn't identify as a victim of human trafficking; I was labeled as a child prostitute,” Beck said.

Beck said the language needs to shift, starting with the label “child prostitute,” a label the Center’s Director of Public Affairs Tayloe McDonald said doesn’t exist.

“With consent, without consent, a child cannot consent to sex,” McDonald said.

Right now, the center is working with lawmakers in Tallahassee to create a network of first responders to help survivors.

“By providing a clinical counselor, an advocate and a survivor mentor who will be on call for the survivor 24/7,” McDonald said.

McDonald said hotel workers also need to know what to look for.

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“When people who work in the hotel industry see a girl who is not allowed to leave the room without somebody with her, that should be a red flag,” McDonald said.

Beck is now a strong voice in Tallahassee pushing to advocate for victims. With her help, laws that protect victims can be implemented.

“I truly believe that without a demand for sex trafficking, there wouldn't be a supply,” Beck said.

The Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center sent Sen. Aaron Bean an appropriations request of $3.2 million that would go toward staffing the network of first responders statewide.

If you suspect someone is the victim of sex trafficking, call the national hotline at 1-888-373-7888; you can also text HELP to 233733 to alert the hotline.