A few weeks ago, I was reminded at the sheer power of the human spirit. We went to visit a non-descript building in Miami that houses the Human Trafficking Center for Miami-Dade County. I was fortunate enough to be in the room with Shana Pederson, founder of Life Preservers Project (LPP), Nikki Samuels, a fellow board member and LPP Treasurer, and the Human Trafficking Team for the county including the Miami-Dade State Attorney, Katherine Fernandez Rundle.
I am awestruck by the overwhelming passion for mitigating the spread of human trafficking, prosecuting the criminals, and advocating for the victims exhibited by Ms. Rundle, Unit Director Alicia Garcia Priovolos, Esq., Commander Bobby Navarro, as well as Victim Specialists and support staff. Though I wrote for people to “respond” in prior blogs, I realize now this was for the laypeople, as this team has a clear vision of humanity in all its glory.
For over two hours, the team explained the building’s layout with sections for attorneys, law enforcement officers, and victim advocates. We learned of a ‘one-stop shop’, a “comprehensive medical home offering multidisciplinary trauma-informed services in a single location for survivors of human trafficking.” We also saw images of their comfortable shelter that opened in January of 2016 for survivors over the age of 18, a critical need so often overlooked.
They work collaboratively in one location with a single, laser-like focus. The irony that Miami-Dade has over 30 separate municipal police departments is not lost on the LPP team.
I left with the impressions that a shared vision would go far in yielding even greater results in this ongoing battle. Finally, we discussed their advocacy for passage of an amendment to Florida Statute 92.55 to protect child victims from discovery depositions in criminal and civil cases, except on a showing of good cause, to mitigate the need for victims from being compelled to re-live their trauma.
“Arresting human traffickers, getting them off of our streets and rescuing our victims is only the first-step in trying to end this vicious crime,” said Miami-Dade State Attorney, Katherine Fernandez Rundle. “In Miami, we know that the second step is giving each human trafficking victim individualized support they so desperately need to overcome the effects of their daily sexual abuse. The Life Preservers Project also recognizes this essential need and works to help these traumatized victims replace their deep pain with hope. Meeting Life Preservers Project members, sharing ideas and perspectives while seeing how our Human Trafficking Unit and Human Trafficking Task Force operates will assist both of our efforts to end the crime of Human Trafficking.”
We look forward to partnering with the Miami-Dade Human Trafficking Task Force in their continuing endeavor to bring humanity, dignity and justice to victims. As the Dalai Lama stated:
Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.
For more than 12 years, the Life Preservers Project has been providing advocacy programs for victims of human trafficking. Jessie Torres, Esq., is a Partner and Director of eDiscovery & Litigation Support at Berger Singerman working to get the legal community more involved.