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Integration Challenges: All Hands on Deck to End Human Trafficking in Southwest Florida

By January 21, 2022Featured, News

On January 11, 2022, during National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, the John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy was proud to partner with A Voice in the Wilderness Empowerment Center in Ft. Myers, Florida, on an intensive one-day training against human trafficking: Integration Challenges: All Hands on Deck to End Human Trafficking in Southwest Florida.

Over 100 enthusiastic participants spanning the public and private sector filled the Riverside Community Center including government officials, law enforcement officials, public and private attorneys, victim advocates, NGOs, faith-based organizations, educators, healthcare professionals, and the community at large.  The attendance was truly a reflection of all hands on deck to end human trafficking.

Introducing the topic, Dr. Roza Pati, Founder and Director of the John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy, highlighted the issue of integration as a process of uniting the different components and the multiple dimensions of the anti-trafficking work in order to counter the fragmenting effect, which generally presents itself at various levels.

To dig deeper into these issues, the training consisted of four distinct courses focused on the specific challenges to integration, emphasizing the need for an effective of the application of a collaborative and multidisciplinary response to human trafficking that incorporates partnerships with every echelon of the public and private sector.

Integration is ineffective without development of solid law and policies.  Government officials charged with this role were highly represented at the event.  From the federal level, such as representatives from the offices of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio and U.S. Senator Rick Scott, to the local level, such as Mayor Kevin B. Anderson and Council Members Teresa Watkins Brown (Ward 1) and Terolyn Watson (Ward 3), lawmakers demonstrated their commitment to ending human trafficking.

However, no sound law or policy is effective without adequate implementation and enforcement, and those charged with this task were also present.  The Honorable Amira D. Fox, State Attorney for the Twentieth Judicial Circuit, delivered the keynote address to participants. She offered insights into the work she and her team lead against human trafficking and emphasized her resolve to foster a long and productive partnership in combatting human trafficking in the Twentieth Circuit of Florida.  There were also many law enforcement officials from various police departments and sheriff’s offices, including a notable presence from the Ft. Myers Police Department.

Lastly, no community response against human trafficking can be successful without the support of the public and private sector who serve to identify and report human trafficking as well as support survivors as they rebuild their lives in the short and long term.  The public sector such as Florida Department of Children and Families, Florida Department of Health, Lee County Schools, and others that serve the vital role of integrating appropriate responses to human trafficking in their agencies were in attendance.  The private sector including nonprofit organizations charged with administering federal grants against human trafficking, faith-based organizations, academics and researchers, victim advocates, and the community at large were also well-represented.

The Courses were accredited for 5.5 Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits from The Florida Bar and included: “Perspectives in Law: Trafficking in Persons as a Crime” taught by Francine H. Donnorummo, Esq., Special Victims Unit Chief, Office of the State Attorney Twentieth Judicial Circuit; “Assessing Vulnerability and Trauma in Human Trafficking: Case Study Opioids” taught by Juliana Diaz, LMHC, Foster Care Clinician, CHANCE Program of Citrus Health Network, Inc.; “Labor Trafficking: A Collaborative Response to Immigration Issues of Victims and Survivors” taught by Ana I. Vallejo, Esq., Co-Director & Attorney, VIDA Legal Assistance, Inc.; and “Public-Private Partnerships: A Multidisciplinary Imperative to Combat Human Trafficking” featuring panelists Crystal Lee Hamilton, Survivor Leader and Consultant at CrisLee Consulting Firm, Ramona D. Miller, Founder & Visionary of A Voice in the Wilderness Empowerment Center, and Erika Pineros, LMHC, Human Trafficking Program Coordinator of Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice, and moderated by Liza E. Smoker, JD, LLM, Managing Director of the John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy of St. Thomas University College of Law.

In addition, Mayor Kevin B. Anderson issued a Proclamation commemorating the event that proclaimed January 11, 2022, as Integration Challenges: All Hands on Deck to End Human Trafficking Day.  The Proclamation also commended the LL.M./J.S.D. Program in Intercultural Human Rights and its John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy and A Voice in the Wilderness Empowerment Center for their dedication to bringing awareness to and ending human trafficking and their efforts in hosting the important event.

98% of survey respondents agreed the event “was a most valuable training” that they would “recommend to [their] colleagues.” Respondents also stated they would “take another course organized by the John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy and A Voice in the Wilderness Empowerment Center.” This event was generously supported by The Brunetti Foundation, Community Lending Powered by Hamilton Home Loans, Legendary Automotive, The McMillion Foundation for Public Service, Premier Mobile Health Services, and Ms. Jane Bell.

“We, at St. Thomas College of Law human rights program, are proud to cooperate on our fourth event with A Voice in the Wilderness Empowerment Center in the Ft. Myers area on a training that explored the next frontier of eradicating human trafficking in Southwest Florida.  This community continues to build on past progress against human trafficking.  Their enthusiasm and willingness to work together as one team is outstanding. We believe that we were shining a light on a number of areas that will help confront the challenges of integration,” said Dr. Roza Pati. “I look forward to the continued multidisciplinary collaborations towards this aim – especially with the exceptional leadership in the region with government officials such as the Honorable Amira D. Fox and community advocates such as Ramona D. Miller.”