As the United States recognizes January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, a First Coast nonprofit called Her Song is working to interrupt the cycle of human trafficking while leading women to freedom.
According to the nonprofit, human trafficking is a $150 billion industry, ranking as the second most common criminal activity after the illegal drug trade. Florida is ranked third in the nation for human trafficking, with Duval County ranking as one of the top five hubs for such activity in the state. In this modern-day form of slavery, human trafficking is defined as victims who are subjected to force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor.
Her Song is attempting to break this cycle through survivor care, victim outreach and community awareness. Over the past six years, Her Song has assisted over 500 women away from the life of forced prostitution, physical and psychological torment, drug addiction and unbearable emotional trauma. Freedom Cottage, the residential component of the nonprofit, offers an opportunity for rest, reflection, recovery and transformation.
“A comprehensive care plan is provided for women not only in residence, but for those incarcerated or living elsewhere,” said Rachel White, founder and executive director of Her Song. “Total wraparound services including trauma-informed counseling, life coaching, medical care, education, employment opportunities and legal assistance, enable victims to become survivors and productive members of our community.”
In conjunction with National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, Her Song held a lunch and learn on Jan. 17. Atlantic Beach Mayor Ellen Glasser, a retired special agent in the FBI, presented a proclamation recognizing Her Song for their work in the community and encouraging all citizens, especially families with children, to become educated about human trafficking. Glasser's professional experience in human trafficking added to the information disseminated. Both a survivor in residence and a survivor advocate presented their life stories. Both ladies had a common thread: hope. As now thriving women in the community, they are testimony of the ability to heal and regain one's life again.
“The successes I have seen have been nothing short of miraculous,” said Laine Silverfield, advisory board member for Her Song. “From meeting a young lady seven months ago who was often curled up in a fetal-like position while we talked, to now a beautiful self-assured woman who is an honor roll student at FSCJ. And from celebrating another resident's completing her CNA course with high honors and now enrolled in school with aspirations of becoming a nurse. Her Song gives every woman a voice!"
For more information on Her Song, visit www.hersongjax.org or call (904) 513-0203.