MILTON — The Santa Rosa Kids’ House has received roughly $52,000 from the National Children’s Alliance to organize and train a Multiple Disciplinary Response Team to address local human trafficking.

“The Legislature finds that human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery,” Florida statute 787.06 says. “Victims of human trafficking are young children, teenagers, and adults.”

In Santa Rosa County, this tends to take a specific form, according to SRKH Executive Director Keith Ann Campbell: a parent paying for drugs using a child.

“An example of a case happened last year,” Campbell said. “A young lady who was a teenager was a little bit developmentally delayed. Her mother and sister allowed men to borrow her for drugs. She didn’t report anything because … what was important to her was making her mom and sister happy.”

The SRKH annually receives about 20 phone calls alleging parents trading sex with their children for drugs, according to Campbell.

Since 2014, the Florida Department of Children and Families Northwest Region has verified six victims of human trafficking, all commercially sexually exploited children.

However, these are difficult cases for law enforcement.

“There haven’t been reports related to human trafficking to us,” Santa Rosa Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Rich Aloy said. “But that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. It’s a hidden crime, as victims rarely come forward to seek help. The barriers are fear of retaliation. It’s difficult.”

Victims may also be drugged so badly themselves they don’t know what’s going on or they’re raised as victims and don’t know the difference, according to Campbell.

“It’s really hard to make an arrest in Santa Rosa County without really good evidence,” Campbell said. “While DCF thinks (a case is) human trafficking and may close it and take the child, it doesn’t mean it’ll be prosecuted. The State Attorney’s Office is very careful when making an arrest because it’s really messing with a career, somebody’s whole life.”

The nine-member team forming through the NCA award includes law enforcement members from the Santa Rosa Sheriff's Office, Milton Police, and Gulf Breeze Police as well as members from DCF, the Child Protection Team.

Jody Ennis retired in 2015 from 20 years serving the Radcliff, Ky. Police Force.

“I created Radcliff’s Crimes Against Women and Children Unit,” Ennis said, and was instrumental in writing protocol for Kentucky’s Child Advocacy Center. Upon moving to Milton, Ennis said she started volunteering with the SRSO as a victim advocate.  

When the SRKH received the NCA award, Campbell found Ennis and asked her to join the MDRT.

“Human trafficking is profiting from humans, anything from sex to labor,” Ennis said. “It’s all throughout Florida as well. There could be 50 people living in the back part of a restaurant you never see. There could be employees of a restaurant picked up at a van and housed at night. That could be human trafficking as well…I’m not saying all massage parlors are bad…but if one is open with a red light (or) if hours are extended way into the middle of the night…the community needs to keep its eyes open.”

These are also difficult cases for mental health professionals.

“Mental health professionals have to be trained for human trafficking victims,” Campbell said. “It’s a whole different type of counseling, trauma focused. Not all counselors have that training. I know a survivor (who was) kidnapped Friday, repeatedly drugged and raped for three days and saved on a Tuesday. It changed her life. She was completely traumatized…How do you go back from something like that?

"It’s important to find how to respond to something like that.”

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