The Florida House of Representatives passed a bill to empower and better protect victims of human trafficking.
The trauma and scars for survivors of human trafficking are unimaginable. But now help is on the way for survivors like Savannah Parvu who WINK News first introduced you to in December.
“I started being sexually abused by a neighbor around the age of five,” Parvu said.
Jackie Toledo (R-Tampa) is a Florida Representative. “Her father suffered a stroke at nine and she was left to her mother who suffered from a drug addiction,” Toledo said. “Savannah’s mom began selling her body for drugs when Savannah was 11 as the dealer offered her mom $10 for her daughter. That is when the trafficking started.”
“We went to one hotel a lot and at that hotel the staff there were friends with my trafficker and so he would take me and leave me there and the staff will open up the door and let people in,” Parvu said.
Savannah is an eight-year human trafficking survivor and works with lawmakers like Representative Toledo to protect victims.
“This bill is a step at ensuring we can help victims regain normalcy in life. This bill assures victims that they are not criminals. It confirms that the state of Florida will protect the victims and survivors of human trafficking,” Toledo said.
Parvu wants to help other survivors. “I wanna do everything I can to make a difference,” she said.
The bill limits the number of times a survivor can be questioned relating to a case, allows victims’ arrest records to be expunged and fees waived and cracks down on human traffickers.
Toledo said, “And penalizes traffickers to the fullest extent.”
“I want to be the person that I needed when I was younger. To put things in place that would’ve helped me and will hopefully help other victims,” Parvu said.
Another important aspect of what passed in this bill is better training for advocates. The bill goes back to the Senate, now. If the Senate passes the bill and Governor DeSantis signs it, it will become law on July 1st.
Below are anti-human trafficking and mental health resources available to Southwest Floridians at the national and local level:
- 1 (888) 373-7888 National Human Trafficking Hotline SMS: 233733 (Text “HELP” or “INFO”) Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week Languages: English, Spanish and 200 more languages Website: http://humantraffickinghotline.org
- What is Human Trafficking? https://www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign/what-human-trafficking
- Human Trafficking in Florida: https://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/human-trafficking/
- Path 2 Freedom
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline
- David Lawrence Center (Collier County)
- National Alliance on Mental Illness, Collier County
- National Alliance on Mental Illness, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry Counties
- The National Alliance for Caregiving offers a free handbook
Circle of Care: A Guidebook for Mental Health Caregivers
- Collier County Mental Health Court
- Lee County Mental Health Court
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
- Local Support Groups: Anxiety and Depression Association of America
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Mental Health and Addiction Insurance Help)