A couple months ago, I wrote a blog post called “Out of the Shadows.” At the end of that blog, I called upon people to Respond. I was not calling for a great leap forward, but merely for people to learn more about the signs of human trafficking and to maintain vigilance in their own communities. I asked people to simply come out of the shadows and step into the light.
Of course, that phrase inevitably may cause one to conjure up historical or religious images. For me, it’s less about an epic battle between Good and Evil and more about making a phone call to the police when one sees a situation that is either: potentially criminal or has the potential to escalate into a crime.
A couple of weeks ago, I was walking home in Miami Beach when I heard shouting in a parking lot. A man was berating a woman outside a restaurant and the staff was apparently ignoring it since it was happening in an adjacent lot. I paused to assess the situation, standing behind a parked vehicle. I could hear the woman shout “someone call the police.” She was certainly in fear of imminent harm. So, I called the police. A couple in an SUV drove by and asked me if I was calling the police, as they also heard the shouts. I responded that I had placed the call.
I called several times, since it was taking longer than I had hoped, and the man appeared to be getting angrier. The couple in the SUV were kind enough to circle around checking in on me until the police arrived. The situation quickly de-escalated as soon as the man verbally assaulting this woman saw the red and blue sirens. The whole time though, I was in the shadows behind a car, unsure if this person had a weapon. The light came when I made the call.
For the past 15 months, I have been fortunate enough to work with Life Preservers Project. During this process, I have encountered extraordinary people from the founders, executive director, board members and advisory committee. Last week, Life Preservers Project prepared its first CLE webinar “Step into the Light.” It was moderated by Andrew Kent of Page One Legal and included three exceptional panelists. In alphabetical order by last name, the panelists were: Barbara Martinez with Holland & Knight, Robin Thompson of Survive and Thrive Advocacy Center (STAC), and Greg Zarzaur of the Zarzaur Law Firm.
Each of these amazing panelists provided “education and engagement on Human Trafficking issues”. The free webinar was submitted to numerous states to allow for Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit and recorded so people unable to attend could watch it later. The panelists did an outstanding job given the extensive experience with Criminal, Civil and Advocacy related to Human Trafficking Issues. One goal of the webinar was to inform members of the legal community about the myriad of ways they can help to help prevent these crimes, either through vigilance or training business like hotels and banks. Another goal was to let people know how they can help victims. A broader goal was simply to inform anyone who attended about the significant extent of the problem.
In my prior blog, we provided information on how the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office provided resources to combat human trafficking during the Super Bowl. This included the rescue of 18 human trafficking victims because of an aggressive awareness campaign that included QR (Quick Response) codes, a coordinated law enforcement effort and most importantly, the help of the community.
Stepping into the light means learning more about human trafficking by watching webinars like the one we were fortunate to present to educate on human trafficking and provide ways to help.
Before joining Life Preservers Project and being exposed to incredible people like the panelists, I would have probably walked home wondering if I should have done something. Today, I am inspired by them to respond by simply making a phone call and waiting until the police arrive when someone is in potential danger.
Hiding in the shadows is no longer an option. Like the many who joined us for our first webinar, we can certainly all take one small step forward to step into the light. The question is “are you ready?”