While most people are counting down the months, weeks to the Super Bowl being hosted in Miami, local advocacy groups are planning for something else: Going after human traffickers.
While the correlation between major sporting events and sex trafficking has been debated, it doesn’t diminish the fact that Florida ranks third in the nation for having the most trafficked people. For 20 years, Place of Hope has been on the frontlines of battling human trafficking in Florida. And now they’re trying a new tactic to spread the word.
The big screen.
On Aug 22, Place of Hope will be debuting its documentary film “Invisible: A Fight to End Human Trafficking” at the Boca Raton Innovation Campus with hopes to not only educate, but lead to prevention.
“This is critical information that people need to know about,” says Charles Bender, the founding CEO of Place of Hope. “Not just front line workers and hotels and massage parlors, but anybody working anywhere needs to know this because of what traffickers are doing to lure young people is insidious.”
With five campuses throughout Palm Beach County, Place of Hope provides emergency and long-term family-style foster care and safety for minors who have been sexually trafficked. They began the mission to help victims of human trafficking in 2001, long before it was a hot topic of conversation. At any given time, they’re assisting up to a dozen survivors.
In 2018, the nonprofit was working to create an educational program that could be spread throughout the community—realizing that one person couldn’t train everyone, they decided to make a documentary that could be easily shared. Over the next year, the team interviewed survivors of human trafficking, police officers, attorneys, and advocates to tell the story of the problem that’s plaguing Florida.
At the Aug. 22 premiere, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg will speak. Later, there will be showings in West Palm Beach and the Treasure Coast.
“Eventually, it will be accessible on our website,” Bender says. “Someone sitting in middle Nebraska who wants to get people together to learn, they’ll be able to access it as well.”
Not only does “Invisible” address the basics on human trafficking and share survivors’ stories, but there’s a call to action: donate, volunteer, or help spread the word.
“This stuff goes on every single day around us and people need to be vigilant not think ‘This can’t happen in my neighborhood, in my city.’ That’s not the case. It’s happening all around us all the time,” Bender says.
“Invisible” will be screened on Aug. 22 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Boca Raton Innovation Campus’s conference center at 5000 T-Rex Ave. The screening is free and open to the public—visit PlaceofHopeRinker.Org/Invisible-Presentation for more information.
Read our feature investigating human trafficking in the Sunshine State from the January 2019 issue of Boca magazine.