Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Church Music Event Aims to Raise Awareness of Human Trafficking, Construct Safe House

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Church Music Event Aims to Raise Awareness of Human Trafficking, Construct Safe House

Article excerpt

Byline: Eileen Kelley

For years a church in Mandarin has rallied around local causes such as hunger and the need for poor children to have adequate school supplies. But this year the Christ's Church annual Freedom Fest music event is taking on a less noticeable but incredibly troubling issue in the community: human trafficking.

Human trafficking - modern-day slavery - is a $32 billion a year industry. Pimps and human traffickers target, lure and force vulnerable women, men and children into prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation. Others are pulled into indentured servitude. About 325,000 children in America are at risk each year. Florida ranks third in the nation for human trafficking. Still, few in the community know and talk about it.

Over the past few years about 200 women, including teens, have been pulled from the physical and psychological shackles of human trafficking in Duval County. Law enforcement officers believe that figure just begins to show a fraction of how bad the problem is here, said Rachel White, a licensed counselor who has helped about 90 women who have escaped human trafficking.

"So now, right here, we're are talking in the thousands," she said. "This is a community health problem. These are human lives."

Through her work with those who have escaped, White learned this: Without a safe place to retreat to, many head back into the murky world of the sex-trade business out of desperation for work, acceptance, money - because they have nowhere else to turn.

Enter White's group, Her Song; Christ's Church, a non-denominational Christian church with campuses in Mandarin, St. Augustine and Fleming Island; Rethreaded Jacksonville, a local company that fights the sex-slave business by providing work to survivors of the sex-trade business; and the Australian Grammy Award-winning singing duo For King & Country. The duo has been active in drawing attention to human trafficking and is one of the headliners at the upcoming Freedom Fest. For King & Country is also contributing financially to the local cause.

Freedom Fest is from 4 to 9:30 p. …

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