The Florida-based Christian youth welfare group One More Child held its annual Traffick Stop event Tuesday morning.
According to One More Child, an estimated 9,700 children are “coerced, manipulated and victimized by the illegal sex trade” every year in the United States. With Traffick Stop, One More Child looks to “advocate for dynamic change that will stop sexual exploitation of children everywhere.”
Described on its website as “a day of purposeful discussion, fruitful engagement and decisive action” bringing together “experts, officials and industry leaders,” the festivities for Traffick Stop began at 7:15 a.m. with a legislative prayer breakfast held in Florida State’s Tucker Civic Center.
“Breakthrough sessions” featuring testimonies from service providers, survivors of sex trafficking and advocacy groups followed the breakfast before a “unity march” to the Capitol at 10:30 a.m., concluding with a rally and press conference at 11.
The featured speakers were One More Child officials Jerry Haag (president/CEO) and Christa Hicks (executive director of anti-trafficking) as well as human trafficking survivor Rebecca Bender, founder of her own human trafficking awareness organization, the Rebecca Bender Initiative.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, human trafficking is a crime that involves compelling or coercing a person to provide labor or services, or to engage in commercial sex acts. Exploitation of a minor for commercial sex is human trafficking, regardless of whether any form of force, fraud, or coercion was used.
Bender escaped what she described as “a life of sex trafficking” in 2007 and published an account of her experiences in 2013, titled “Road to Redemption.” Following the moderate success of her book, Bender started the Rebecca Bender Initiative in 2014. According to her website, the Rebecca Bender Initiative intends to change lives and the culture as well, which she believes is fueling sex trafficking. The organization provides “services, resources and practical tools to help survivors heal, grow and flourish”; over 60 percent of their staff is survivors of human trafficking.
The Rebecca Bender Initiative website includes Elevate Academy, an online membership free for survivors of human trafficking. Included with the membership are 10 different courses, complete with homework, workbook activities and over 50 video lessons. The courses range from leadership management and “finding a job and keeping it” to becoming a published author and working in the anti-trafficking movement. Membership to Elevate Academy is $99 per month for people without a past in human trafficking.