One in three child runaways is sold for sex within 48 hours of leaving home.
Florida children as young as 12 are being sold to the sex trade.
Their life expectancy after that happens? Seven years.
And as Ratzan, the attorney who founded Stop Sex Trafficking Miami, told the story of a little girl whose pimp branded her eyelids — one with his name; the other with a dollar sign — her listeners gasped.
Her audience of 250 included law enforcement, health care, social service agencies, churches and concerned citizens. They'd come to Wednesday's inaugural human trafficking symposium hosted by FGCU to hear speakers from the trenches, learn from each other and share experiences at the event, coordinated by the Women's Fund of Southwest Florida and the university's new regional Human Trafficking Resource Center.
Brenda Tate, the fund's president, said the day exceeded her hopes.
"I was just thrilled by how engaged the group was and by its diversity," she said. "And I'm confident we are going to keep moving toward better solutions," including long-term treatment for trafficking survivors and a directory of services for their needs.
Bradly Myles, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Polaris Project/National Human Trafficking Resource Center, gave the keynote address. Other speakers included federal and state attorneys, counselors and nonprofit leaders.
The idea, organizers said, is to create a critical mass of people willing to fight the often-hidden crime.
"If we remain silent, we will be guilty of complicity," Ratzan said. "When enough people are aware, enough people will care, and action will happen."
Learn more, help out
•To donate to the Southwest Florida Regional Center on Human Trafficking, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
•Follow on social media: facebook.com/womensfundfl and twitter.com/womensfundfl.
•To report suspected human trafficking activity or get services, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center: 888-3737-888.
•What is human trafficking? Human trafficking is the modern-day slave trade. In instances of trafficking, victims are stripped of their freedom and many basic human rights and are exploited through the use of force, fraud or coercion.
•What are the forms of human trafficking? There are many forms of trafficking worldwide. While the FGCU center focuses primarily on trafficking for sexual exploitation and trafficking for labor (in which a person works against their will for little or no pay), because these are the most prevalent in the immediate area, these are not the only forms of trafficking that exist worldwide.
•How can I identify a victim of trafficking? In general there are several "red flags" to look for. If they are fearful or anxious (especially when bringing up law enforcement) or seem very tense to the point of avoiding eye contact, show signs of malnourishment or physical abuse, or are constantly in the presence of another person who does not allow them to speak for themselves, there is reason to be suspicious.
•What can I do to help? Be aware, be vigilant, and don't be afraid to report anything that might be suspicious. If you suspect a trafficking case, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 888-373-7888 or send a text message to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center: 233733
Source: Human Trafficking Resource Center at FGCU