By Nathan Earl & Stephen Ferrante
Every year, youth and adults are compelled into sex trafficking across South Florida. While anyone can be exploited, traffickers regularly target young people who lack strong support networks, are financially burdened, have experienced violence in the past, or who are marginalized by society. Without meaningful community support, young people who identify as LGBTQ+ may be at particular risk for sexual exploitation and/or trafficking. Youth not identifying as LGBTQ+, or straight/heterosexual, are also sexually exploited and trafficked.
Sex traffickers use violence, threats, lies, and other forms of coercion to compel individuals to engage in sexual activities against their will or because they lack other options. Some examples of sexual activities include posing for nude images or video, intercourse (anal, oral, and vaginal), dancing, and stripping. Some victims become romantically involved with someone who then forces or manipulates them into sex work. Some are controlled or coerced once under the influence of illicit drugs, like crystal meth. Others are lured in with false promises of a job, such as modeling or dancing. Some are forced to sell or trade sex by family members, while other are kicked out by their families, placing them in stressful financial situations in which they must trade shelter, drugs, hormones, food, and other things of value to survive.
Ark of Freedom Alliance (AFA) is a federally-funded 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to prevent violence and exploitation by utilizing a public health approach to co-create equitable, inclusive, and empowered communities. We do this through advocacy, community mobilization, and the coordinated delivery of evidence-based education, intervention, and survivor-care. As a survivor-led human rights and services organization, AFA is particularly focused on historically underserved male-identifying young adults, including black, brown, and Native American LGBTQ+ individuals who are at risk of human trafficking because of homelessness, substance misuse, mental health challenges, unresolved trauma, family dysfunction, and criminal justice involvement.
AFA offers professional training, conducts outreach, and provides comprehensive case management and direct assistance with unmet basic needs; connection with health and behavioral health care; advocacy for victims’ services and rights; educational, employment, and other income related linkages; family reunification; and peer support.
Visit www.AOfAlliance.org to learn more about human trafficking and the many ways you can support AFA prevent the exploitation of LGBTQ+ youth. To report suspected cases of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at (888) 373-7888. To make a local referral or to coordinate an organizational training on human trafficking, call (954) 778-2871.
Please consider AFA when selecting an impactful organization to benefit from your holiday, end-of-year charitable giving (CH52787, EIN: 82-2572698).