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.