MIAMI (CBS4) – Human trafficking and sexual exploitation of women is a major issue across the country and especially in South Florida.
A new facility in Miami for victims of these crimes aims to empower victims to change their lives.
The images at the Life of Freedom Center in Miami are stark, disturbing and powerful. For instance there are quotes from victims about abuse, visual representations of what victims endure and statistics about sexual exploitation and human trafficking that will shock you.
At the Center’s opening Tuesday victim Lisa Dugan shared her gripping story of meeting a man who forced her into a life of prostitution, violence and drugs.
“At age 19 or 20 I was introduced to a man who was a pimp,” she said. “He really began to beat me, abuse me, regularly. (He) threatened me, told me I wouldn’t be able to leave.”
Dugan spent 6 years enduring the horrors.
But after embracing her faith and entering therapy, Dugan is a survivor advocate and works for the Fields of Hope program, which runs the facility.
Throughout the facility are counseling rooms, a restoration room and a overwhelming feeling of comfort.
That’s what Jorge Veitia, founder of the Sol Media Network, envisioned when he helped create the center with the Fields of Hope Program.
“When you learn about the incredible crimes and trauma that these children go through as children that they are robbed of everything and to me, that’s just not okay,” he said. “We need to do everything possible to help these individuals obtain a life of freedom in our own communities.”
Victims will come to Life of Freedom after they are already receiving help. Life of Freedom will teach the women business skills to enable them to leave behind a life of victimization.
One of the ways, explained Cameron Cary, director of Fields of Hope, is to work making products like candles, oils and soaps. The women will be paid and sales of the items will help fund the Center. The goal is to allow victims to leave behind their past life once and for all.
“A lot of victims that we’ve seen they’ve been able to get off the streets but often they relapse because they don’t know what else to do,” Cary said.
Jeanette Rubio – wife of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio — was the guest of honor speaker at the event. She is a passionate supporter of the cause.
“This is a very important issue that it’s not just affecting our country but it’s affecting our community,” Rubio told CBS 4′s Carey Codd. “And so this is something that I have decided — both Marco and I — to be a part of and do whatever we can to make a difference.”
That is what Life of Freedom hopes to do — make a difference in the lives of women who have been trafficked, victimized and left without hope. Lisa Dugan hopes to restore some of that hope.
“All of us have gifts,” she said. “All of us have talents that can be tapped into and I want help (the victims) to find those. I want them to take a dream and go with it.”