Celebrating YOUR Work:

National Slavery And Human Trafficking Prevention Month

By Robin Hassler Thompson and Rebeccah Lutz

January was National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and it was inspiring to see so many people join to support survivors and take action to stop human trafficking.

We are grateful for everyone who sponsored, organized or hosted an event or participated in any way. Whether you served as part of a discussion, attended training or shared information about trafficking with your family and friends, your contribution was important. Thank you.

Mayor John Dailey and the Tallahassee City Commission proclaimed January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and recognized the work of STAC, the International Rescue Committee and the Big Bend Coalition Against Human Trafficking

It takes all of us working together to assist survivors and to teach everyone in our region how to recognize, report and prevent sex and labor trafficking. The outreach we accomplished in January led to more potential contacts with trafficking survivors, including two who reached out via STAC’s social media. Our Survivor Services Coordinator was able to meet with them and determine how we could help. After an awareness presentation, another woman approached one of the speakers and said that she realized she had been trafficked in her past. Understanding more about the issue, she said, helped her begin to heal.

Each point of contact we make is like a stone thrown into a pond causing ripples. These ripples go out from each person that attended an event or heard something about the issue to create greater impact.

STAC, the International Rescue Committee, the Big Bend Coalition Against Human Trafficking and many other organizations and individuals are working to provide training and outreach and to connect survivors to a wide network of resources. Our mission now is to keep going, but first, let’s pause to appreciate what we accomplished. I want to share with you a snapshot of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month 2020 and all of the wonderful organizations that made it successful.

January 2020 By The Numbers

STAC conducts training on the third Friday of every month and many other outreach and education events, but January was remarkable with:

  • 6 training sessions conducted by STAC and our partners and sponsors with 162 attendees.
  • 20 awareness presentations or meetings with 360 attendees.
  • 33 organizations participating as sponsors or hosts.

Media Coverage

STAC worked to get human trafficking in the news. Executive Director Robin Hassler Thompson joined several participants for a panel discussion on “Perspectives,” 88.9 WFSU-FM with host Tom Flanigan. Panelists included Michelle Gaines, Title IV, Part A, director with the Florida Department of Education, who talked about human trafficking education in schools; Melissa Wright, vice president and personal banker with Capital City Bank, who is working to develop a trafficking awareness program throughout the bank’s branches, and Regina Bernadin, deputy director of US Programs Florida for the International Rescue Committee Florida, who spoke about IRC’s work, as well as the STAC/IRC partnership. LISTEN HERE.

Robin Hassler Thompsonwas also part of WTXL’s coverage: WATCH HERE

STAC Partners

There are so many people to thank that we couldn’t possibly list each of them here, but these are the organizations who took part in events as sponsors or hosts. Thank you!

Advocates for Immigration and Refugee Rights at the FSU College of Law

Big Bend Coalition Against Human Trafficking

Teresa Bowling of Keller Williams Town & Country Realty

Brookdale Senior Living

Capital City Bank

Christian Legal Society

City of Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey and City Commission

Congregation Shomrei Torah

Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice – Tallahassee

Florida Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Florida Department of Children and Families

Florida Department of Education

Florida Department of Health

Florida Government Bar Association

Florida State University Center for the Advancement of Human Rights

Florida State University College of Law

Florida State University College of Social Work

Florida State University Service Scholars Program

Gadsden County Commission

Gadsden County Public Library

International Rescue Committee – Tallahassee and Florida

Legal Services of North Florida

PACE Center for Girls Leon

Perspectives on WFSU 88.9 FM

Student Bar Association

Tallahassee Women Lawyers

Temple Israel

The Rotary Club of Tallahassee

Trinity United Methodist Women’s Circle

United Church in Tallahassee

Westminster Oaks Women’s Circle

Zonta Club of Tallahassee

In addition to those listed above, individuals representing many other organizations in health care, social services, law enforcement, government, legal services, education and faith-based groups attended an event or training.

Guest Speakers

We’d like to recognize some of our speakers starting with Amylynn Harrington-Smoot, a trafficking survivor and advocate working with task forces, community-based care organizations and faith groups throughout the southeast. She is a consultant for STAC and, in 2018, worked with 121 Hope as an ambassador and speaker on human trafficking and prevention. She was the Survivor Mentor for the Open Doors Network, through The Florida Baptist Children’s Home, for the Central Florida area including Orange, Polk, Osceola and Brevard counties from November 2017 – February 2018. She was the Survivor Mentor for The Porch Light, a certified safe home, from January 2015 to February 2017.

Vania Aguilar, Robin Hassler Thompson, Amylynn Harrington-Smoot and Christin Foster Gonzalez at the FSU College of Law.

AmyLynn is a survivor from childhood sex trafficking and torture that occurred for approximately 18 months from the time she was 8 years old. She chooses to use her knowledge in the area of sexual exploitation of children as a mentor to help other survivors, to consult with advocates in the fight against this horrific epidemic and in the areas of education and awareness.

Other speakers included:

Vania Aguilar, program manager at Florida State University Center for the Advancement of Human Rights.

Lorena Vollrath-Bueno, a prosecutor since 2003. She is currently Chief of Felony Division B in Leon County State Attorney’s Office, Second Judicial Circuit.

Terry Coonan, the executive director of the Florida State University Center for the Advancement of Human Rights and an associate professor in the FSU College of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Daynica Harley, a 2021 JD candidate at the FSU College of Law, a student advocate within the FSU Public Interest Law Center Human Trafficking and Exploitation Law Project (HELP), a clinical experience representing child survivors of trafficking in various legal capacities.

Graciela Marquina, MSW, the Victim Assistance Coordinator for STAC.

Ann Perko, director of Policy and Special Projects at the Institute for Family Violence Studies, College of Social Work at Florida State University.

Nicole LeBoeuf Whitaker, a Tallahassee attorney, a member of the Big Bend Coalition Against Human Trafficking and an advocate who has worked to amend Florida’s civil human trafficking laws.

Rebecca Zoeller, JD, who provides comprehensive, trauma-informed, language-accessible civil legal services to victims and survivors of human trafficking in 16 Florida panhandle counties.

As you can see, this is a diverse list of organizations and people who care about survivors and are doing something about trafficking in our region. We must also mention the STAC board members and team. We had great board participation in every event.

STAC’s work would not be possible without all of you. National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month 2020 was definitely one for the books. We look forward to continuing this important work with you in the months and years to come. We are making a difference. Thanks to you. 

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