Our Community Comes Together to End Human Trafficking!

Tampa Bay comes together in so many ways to address human trafficking and support those who have been affected by this terrible crime. This month the Greater Tampa Bay Anti-Human Trafficking Group led by The FREE Network held it’s quarterly working group meeting. Topics included: addressing demand, providing anti-human trafficking training to the hotel/travel industry under the new Florida anti-human trafficking law, and caution in re-exploitation of those who have been through a human trafficking experience. The working group now consists of almost 30 organizations in our community dedicated to ending human trafficking and supporting those affected by this crime. Thank you to our members in Orlando for joining us!

In addition to our working group, The FREE Network partnered with Shared Hope International and Lutheran Services of Florida to host The Ambassadors of Hope Training. Over 50 participants became Ambassador’s of Hope. These Ambassadors are now trained to help raise awareness and prevent human trafficking in our community.

Thank you to all the individuals and organizations pulling together to end this crime. Together we are making a difference!

For more information visit us at: www.freenetwork.us

Tampa Bay Comes Together to Address Human Trafficking!

May 2, 2019

The Greater Tampa Bay Anti-Human Trafficking Working Group held its quarterly meeting last month and celebrated its one year anniversary! Twenty-eight organizations and over 50 people, including survivors, law enforcement, service providers and members of federal, state and local government, came together seeking solutions to end human trafficking and support victims and survivors. The working group created the legislative committee, a committee dedicated to advocating for the passing of legislation that will prevent and deter human trafficking as well as protect the victims and survivors of this crime.

Hillsborough Commissioners Sandy Murman and Kimberly Overman attended the working group showing our local government’s continued support. The FREE Network is proud of the work our community is doing to address human trafficking. We know that together we can all make a difference and freedom starts with each one of us.

Our symbol, the anchor, represents the hope that the members in our network collectively bring in addressing the horrors of this crime. We are grateful for the commitment and engagement from our community and look forward to some day seeing a world without slavery. www.freenetwork.us

The FREE Network Makes Global Connections!

The FREE Network was excited to participate in the 3rd SAFE Global Conference on Human Trafficking from September 2-5th in Chicago, Ill. The conference served as a venue to gain more knowledge on how communities worldwide are addressing human trafficking, how they support victims and survivors, and what other governments are doing in addressing this global crime. Making connections across transnational boundaries and cultures was an enriching experience. The breakout sessions covered many topics including global trends, law enforcement, community development, and the role of technology. 

Keynote speakers included the Honorable Zoe Bakoko Bakoru, former Minster of Gender, Labor, and Social Development of Uganda. Joanna Gutierrez Winters, President and Chair of the FREE Network had an opportunity to sit down with the Hon. Bakoko Bakoru and hear about the challenges of addressing human trafficking in Uganda and in the many African Nations plagued with this crime. The Hon. Bakoko Bakoru also shared her role and journey as Minister of Uganda and the innovative ways she sought to address this crime in her country. Other participants included, USF’s Triumph Over Trafficking (TOT) and Lutheran Services of Florida, both members of The FREE Network. The Hon. Bakoko Bakoru will be the key note speaker at TOT’s Anti-Human Trafficking Symposium here in Tampa at USF on Wed, October 10th. Mark your calendars! 

As an outcome of this conference and meeting with Dr. Kalyani Gopal, CEO of the SAFE Coalition on Human Rights, whose work is primarily focused on addressing human trafficking worldwide, Joanna signed an MOU between the FREE Network and the SAFE Coalition to work together in furthering anti-human trafficking efforts worldwide. Even we can impact a worldwide effort from the work we are doing right here in Tampa Bay!


Back to School Collaboration

The FREE Network is excited about collaborating with the University of South Florida on many levels. We are committed to working with the faculty, staff and student body at USF on our mutual goals of ending human trafficking and supporting the victims and survivors in our community. Our collaboration continues to expand. Last month, 24 organizations were present at the Greater Tampa Bay Anti-Human Trafficking Working Group meeting. At this meeting, Triumph Over Trafficking (TOT), a student led organization at USF, and the FREE Network signed a Memorandum of Agreement to collaborate over the next school year. 

Increasing public awareness at USF and supporting the organizations in our community working in the anti-human trafficking movement are the key focus areas of this collaboration. TOT will conduct a movie screening on campus scheduled for November 7th, a book club will start this semester focusing on educating students on human trafficking, and a symposium scheduled for October 10th will also take place at the USF campus. TOT plans on holding a drive to collect supplies for local safe homes as well. The FREE Network is also working with USF College of Public Health and Lutheran Services of Florida to conduct a workshop on Labor Trafficking on Friday, September 7th, from 12:30-5pm at USF

Together with USF's Department of Computer Science and Engineering, we are also exploring the creation of a mobile app that will allow those who want to get involved, have better access. The app will also allow the anti-human trafficking community to better communicate with each other in an effort to leverage resources, combat this crime and support victims and survivors in our community. 

Stay tuned for more updates on the FREE Network’s collaboration efforts with the many organizations in our community and visit, like and follow us here:

Web: www.freenetwork.us

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/freenetwork.us/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/The_FreeNetwork


Our Community Comes Together to Address Human Trafficking

The Greater Tampa Bay Anti-Human Trafficking Working Group Update

The FREE Network is excited to share an update on Tampa Bay coming together to address human trafficking in our community. The Greater Tampa Bay Anti-Human Trafficking working group, created in April of this year, came together this week to discuss challenges and opportunities in ending human trafficking and supporting victims and survivors of this crime. Twenty-five organizations in the anti-human trafficking movement in the Tampa Bay area were present.

The FREE Network facilitated the discussions among law enforcement, survivors, service providers and academia in our community.  We understand the importance of creating a collaborative environment to share information in order to leverage resource, avoid duplicating efforts and avoid reinventing the wheel. It is through this process of sharing knowledge and information that we can better and more effectively address human trafficking in our community. 

Topics in the working group session included emergency and long-term housing, law enforcement initiatives, awareness, prevention, and legislation. A separate committee will  address emergency and long-term housing needs for victims and survivors of human trafficking, a critical need in our community. 

The group will meet quarterly to continue moving forward in our shared vision of ending human trafficking and supporting the victims and survivors in our community. For more information about the working group and our members, visit us at:


USF Joins Community Partners to Strengthen Anti-Human Trafficking Efforts

The University of South Florida, The FREE Network, and community partners came together to explore challenges and opportunities in ending human trafficking and supporting survivors. End Human Trafficking: A Community Approach was a great opportunity to brainstorm solutions to this complex problem.

We are grateful for the community engagement and looking forward to sharing some results of these sessions in the coming weeks. Check out the blog below about this event! and thank you to all who participated! USF Global Disaster Management, Humanitarian Relief & Homeland Security, Panel: Bridging Freedom, Connie A Rose, St. Petersburg Police Department, USF Criminology Department



PHOTO CREDIT: Photos by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health Communications

International Justice Mission

By: Haley Elliott

Learn more about the International Justice Mission


International Justice Mission (IJM) is an international, Christian non-governmental 501 organization focused on human rights, law, and law enforcement. The organization was founded in 1997 by lawyer Gary Haugen of the United States. It is based in Washington D.C. They are a team of lawyers, investigators, social workers, and community activists. They work with many different organizations such as law enforcement, churches, and community members to help protect the poor and underrepresented from violence.

International Justice Mission has many chapters at different universities around the nation. The University of South Florida’s chapter president, Dakota Engel, agreed to speak with me about what exactly they were doing to help bring an end to human trafficking in the Tampa Bay area. When asked what her chapter specifically does she informed me that the university chapters usually focus on campus advocacy and fundraising. The fundraising money is given to the international organization to help rescue victims from slavery all over the world by conducting investigations and rescue missions and to help survivors start a new life.

Currently, the USF chapter of IJM hosts several events to raise awareness and gather funds for their mission. They have Java for Justice, which is a night of free coffee and education. Fast for Freedom is an event that is done where the members fast for a day and the money they would have spent on food gets donated. Stand for Freedom is another event they do where they stand for 24 hours for those suffering through oppression; the main idea of this event is: “standing one day for their everyday.” In addition to their annual events, they also hold meetings on the University of South Florida’s campus every other Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Marshall Student Center room 3713; these meetings are open to all students who want to learn more about what is happening around them and want to help.

When asked what distinguishes IJM from other organization that are fighting for the same cause, Ms. Engel replied that the fact that they bring together everyone and everything involved internationally in the fight against human trafficking is what makes them unique. International Justice Mission currently is working to help strengthen the justice system to better protect victims of human trafficking. They do this in four ways: rescue, restore, restrain, and represent. They first work with local law enforcement to rescue victims. They then work with social workers to restore survivors back to a normal life. After this, they work with local law enforcement to restrain the criminals perpetrating these crimes and then work with public prosecution to represent survivors in court.

If you are interested in learning more about the International Justice Mission or getting involved their information can be found at www.ijm.org. If you are interested in working with the University of South Florida’s chapter their information can be found on their social media, @usfijm.