Sex-Trafficking Protection Law Signed at Miami Safe House
On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott signed the Florida Safe Harbor Act, legislation that protects young victims of the sex-trafficking industry from prosecution and also provides an avenue for them to reenter society. The bill was signed at Kristi House in Miami, a safe house for sexually abused young people, whose clients include children fleeing commercial sexual exploitation.
Kristi House Program Manager Sandy Skelaney, who authored the Florida initiative, created the “GOLD program - “Girls Owning Their Lives and Dreams” - to help abuse victims. But she realized it was not enough, and she approached lawmakers in Tallahassee seeking legal solutions.
“At the end of the day, we want them to reach a safe house, not push them deeper into a system that treats them like criminals,” Skelaney said at the bill-signing ceremony. The legislation was the culmination of three years of grassroots efforts and political discussion. Kristi House Executive Director Trudy Novicki also was instrumental in getting the measure passed and signed into law.
At the signing, Florida Rep. Erik Fresen said, “You can get a peek through the window of the darkness that exists on the streets of Miami and our country here.”
The new law gives discretion to police officers to drop off young traffickers at a safe house instead of jail. It is hoped that aiding victims also will help in the prosecution of perpetrators, said Attorney General Pam Bondi, who accompanied the governor. The law also was backed by US Sen. Marco Rubio.
Kristi House is looking for a site for an emergency shelter and drop-in center for girls. “Nobody should have to go through that trauma alone,” Skelaney said.
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