Lies have always come easily to men and women who profit from preying on others. Among the more sinister crimes that occurs literally every moment of every day is sex trafficking, a distinct subset of human trafficking.
This is not a comfortable topic, and no one wants to believe this abuse takes place close to home. Sadly, Florida consistently ranks in the top three in the nation for human trafficking. Criminals who exploit a vulnerable population know how to intimidate their victims into continued silence. Whether the result of outright kidnapping, the false lure of legitimate employment, or the
“selling” of someone by a trusted individual, fear and hopelessness pervade the lives of those caught in what is a multi-billion-dollar business.
In addition to vigilance by law enforcement, numerous organizations are focused on helping fight the problem. One such non-profit is the faith-based, 611Network. Although they are international, their local group works in Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Broward counties. Their mission is, “To build an international community of individuals and organizations committed to the spiritual and physical freedom and restoration of REAL people enslaved by human trafficking.”
As part of their 611 Outreach, teams go weekly, to include routinely coming to Homestead and Florida City. One of the team members has spent more than ten years working in safe homes and shelters and as she explains, “We go onto the streets, into the clubs, the brothels and on-line. We share love and offer hope and ways out.”
They also have their Ground Secure program. “Our large event outreach team focuses on outreach, rescue and recovery on some of the world’s largest stages where trafficking is at an all-time high. Join our next large event outreach January 26 - February 2, 2020 Miami, FL.”
If theses dates seem familiar, that’s because it’s a lead-up to Super Bowl LIV (54). Although shocking to most people, the celebratory atmosphere of major events is also tainted with a harsh truth. In May 2019, the Host Committee released an announcement about their efforts. “Sex trafficking has reached epidemic levels in South Florida. Major events like Super Bowl LIV create a
rallying point around which top influencers, nonprofit organizations and corporations can unite to take action to prevent human trafficking as well as support those suffering. With this goal, the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee today announced its partnership with The Women’s Fund Miami-Dade as the lead partner organization for the official Stop Sex Trafficking Campaign, working alongside the Office of Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and more than 100 collaborating partners.”
For members of 611Network, their status as a faith-based organization can present challenges when partnering with large networks. In the case of the upcoming Super Bowl, the most effective way for them to help is to conduct their special outreach prior to the event. “We have 100-200 people planning to help; some of whom will come in from out of state.”
Within the sheer scope of victims, successes do matter. Anthony Polenski, Founder and President of 611Network, refers to Human Trafficking as a “Goliath”, and in showing results across the organization for August, they cite 500 “roses” given, which means 500 more people were made aware of their work. Direct prayers were given to 348 and 9 women were provided the ability to step onto the path of a new life. Indeed, of those nine, one was a woman with two daughters; another had three daughters and the ninth was a 15-year teenager on her own.
In the related area of sex workers, there are those who may feel there is no way back. The local outreach director shared one story. “As I handed her a printed image of a white rose, I began to explain to her in ancient times the knights of old would give their lady (and I specified lady, not ladies) a white rose as a symbol of honor and value. I told her I honored and respected her as a woman and knew God had an incredible purpose for her life. I went on to say God’s plan was for good things, filled with hope and a beautiful future. Her eyes started to shimmer with tears, as she stood before me bare, exposed and almost completely nude except for the stilettos on her perfectly manicured feet. You see, this particular woman is a known performer in the pornography industry and at this moment, in the midst of one of the largest porn conventions, she was having an encounter with the Heavenly Father. She was feeling His relentless pursuit of her heart. She looked me in the eyes and responded with, “Wow. I don’t know what to say. I don’t understand how you could respect me. And I don’t remember the last time I felt like this. Thank you.”
I reminded her of the Heavenly Father’s love – that He is not ashamed of or embarrassed by her, rather He desires to enter into her world. Even if it isn’t as pretty as it appears from the outside and have a relationship with her. I asked if I could pray for her in that moment and she said no because I had already taken up a lot of time and she had clients waiting. However, I prayed for her as I walked away, and continued to pray for her that following week…and I will never cease praying for that sweet girl, because our Father is the Master Gardener. Seeds of His Word were planted. And He promises His Word will not return void.”
Specific actions individuals can take in support of 611Network include becoming aware of potential situations and knowing how to respond appropriately. Weekly training is offered by 611 Outreach and at this time, they would like to have two new volunteers. They also need three resources to assist in funding rescues with new phones, clothes, food, and transportation to safe home program. Individuals or groups interested in helping can email firstname.lastname@example.org, go to https://611network.org or call (214) 425-0494.
In the interest of public awareness, a follow-up article about other Homestead-based efforts to identify and stop sex trafficking and address illegal sex trade will be published next month.