Legislation seeks to prevent human trafficking

Michelle Salzman is the republican House representative that proposed House Bill 1557.
Photo courtesy: myfloridahouse.gov

According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, 2,894 signals were received in the state of Florida and 1,146 of those reported were received from victims or survivors.

A new House bill would change the way Florida handles the dangers of sexual and human trafficking and would provide resources for victims.

House Bill 1557, filed by Michelle Salzman, R-Pensacola, addresses the prevalence of human trafficking by requiring safety measures for the state.

The bill would require the Department of Children and Families to create state-run safe houses, educational programming for children and develop signage for designated public areas.

As detailed within the proposed signage, “Victims of slavery and human trafficking are protected under United States and Florida law.”

If this bill successfully moves through the Legislature, it may provide necessary protections for those recovering from trafficking and prevent others from experiencing it.

Hayley Giannuzzi, vice-president of the FAMU chapter of Women Against Rape (WAR), regards the bill as a step in the right direction since “the most recent bills that have been passed have been about stripping women of their rights.”

The proposed six week abortion ban is set to be voted on by the Senate this Thursday — it’s already been approved by the House — and would add to the number of controversial bills specifically targeting minority groups introduced during this legislative session.

“Providing safe houses and educational programming would actually decrease the prevalence of human trafficking by giving women a safe place to go to prevent them from being targeted and giving them community support,” Giannuzzi said.

Although this bill may provide support to endangered women and other affected people, it may not be as effective in educating the younger generation.

Cydney Offord, a fourth-year elementary education major at FAMU, believes that her students wouldn’t be able to engage in complex conversations defining human trafficking.

“I currently teach first grade students and being that they range from the age from 6 to 8, they are not as knowledgeable on certain topics that we deal with in our society today,” Offord said. “Bringing up the topic of human trafficking to them might not be a concept they understand on a deeper level.”

The bill text states, “The department shall develop age-appropriate educational programming for facilities educating children regarding the signs and dangers of human trafficking and how to report human trafficking.”

It is not specified what type of material or verbiage would be used to inform the youth.

HB 1557 has moved through the Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee and Health Care Appropriations Committee. It will be debated in the Health & Human Subcommittee before being moving to the House floor. It will go into effect on July 1 if passed.