Survive and Thrive protects survivors of human trafficking

What comes to mind when you hear the words “human trafficking”? For many, images of darkrooms, violence, sex crimes and kidnappings are front and center. But the reality of human trafficking might surprise you, and a local organization is on a mission to help you spot it.

Survive and Thrive Advocacy Center (STAC) works to serve and protect survivors of human trafficking of all ages in Big Bend. Their mission is to disrupt child trafficking, sex and work by raising awareness among businesses, workplaces and employees. “The more people who know how to recognize human trafficking, the easier it is for us to respond to and prevent it,” says Robin Thompson, Executive Director of STAC.

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The organization is one of nine local nonprofits recognized by the Beatitude Foundation and GiveTLH, a community effort funded by philanthropist and businessman Rick Kearney. Each organization’s story will be shared in the Democrat, along with information on how you can help. Visit tallahassee.com/givetlh to learn more.

In 2018, Florida was third in the nation for calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. “This statistic doesn’t necessarily reflect the number of cases in Florida, but the number of calls,” says Thompson. “Because human trafficking is so hidden, it is difficult to track. I heard Florida was called ground zero for human trafficking.

Sheriff McNeill and STAC volunteer.  Survive and Thrive Advocacy Center works to serve and protect survivors of human trafficking of all ages in the Big Bend.

In fact, since the onset of COVID-19, many people in our community are more vulnerable. Traffickers exploit crises like the pandemic and its economic fallout, and since the start of the pandemic, the STAC’s workload has tripled.

STAC serves as the referral agency for the National Human Trafficking Hotline and is a direct service provider to its clients. They stay in touch with their clients until they can fully exit their situation and serve as a community educator, hosting webinars as well as in-person events several times a month to professional groups to teach them to recognize and to report human trafficking in Leon County.

STAC receives referrals from local law enforcement, hospitals, churches, and other local human service organizations. When a referral arrives, part-time STAC staff work to get them to safety and provide them with the services they need, including housing, cell phones, clothing, food, medical care and packages. essential care.

They also help with safety planning tools for victims and educate them on how to stay safe and avoid trafficking in the future.

The signs can sometimes be hard to see, even if they’re prominent, says Thompson. “We often say that victims of trafficking live in a prison without walls, because they may not be physically detained against their will, but are made to believe that they have no other choice or that they face threats against their families if they leave.”

That’s why a free online toolkit is available at surviveandthriveadvocacy.org with materials focused on preventing human trafficking, and why STAC offers a free training program specifically tailored to the County of Leon to help the thousands of businesses in our area know what to look for in order to see the signs of human trafficking and take action.

Currently, STAC operates with three part-time paid staff, supported by a board of directors that participates in community events and training sessions. STAC partners with local businesses and other nonprofits to plan and execute the many events held throughout the year.

GiveTLH winners each receive a $1,000 grant from the Beatitude Foundation and a 12-month membership in United Partners for Human Services. Following reader voting in November, the top three organizations will also receive grants in the amount of $2,500, $5,000, and $10,000, respectively, along with free registration and exhibitor booth space to the annual United Partners for Human Services conference. The organization that wins first place will also receive $5,000 in services from BowStern Marketing.

The #GiveTLH series will culminate in November with a chance for Tallahassee readers to vote for their favorite profiled nonprofit. Stories will be compiled on give.tallahassee.com.

GiveTLH

About #GiveTLH

#GiveTLH, underwritten by the Beatitude Foundation and Rick Kearney, is a look at nine nonprofits in our community and how you can help them in their life-changing work. At the end of this round, Kearney will award grants to the nonprofit that gets the most votes in an online poll. For more profiles, visit give.tallahassee.com.

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