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.
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.
“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.
Cox Media Group