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Women’s Fund invests in starting human trafficking center at FGCU

The Women’s Fund of Southwest Florida is investing $150,000 to establish the Southwest Florida Regional Center on Human Trafficking. The proposed center will be on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast University and designed to support the multi-agency Human Trafficking Task Force, led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Middle District of Florida. The proposed center will cover Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry, Glades and DeSoto counties. The broad regional representation on the Human Trafficking Task Force positions the proposed center to address human trafficking in a coordinated manner.
“Victims of human trafficking include children, women and men who are subjected through force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor. Modern slavery is a woman’s issue since most victims are women and girls,” according to Lou Pontius, chair of The Women’s Fund of Southwest Florida.
“The trafficking of human beings is one of the greatest human rights issues of our time. The mission of the proposed center is to support all efforts to reduce the presence of human trafficking in Southwest Florida. We will feel successful once we can document with solid and reliable data the reduction of the crime and greater support for victims,” said Wilson Bradshaw, president of Florida Gulf Coast University. The center will develop and implement a regional protocol that includes the enhancement of victim support provided by law, order and victim service agencies. The role of the proposed center is also to develop and implement a data collection method that facilitates the coordination of services and forensic investigations on human trafficking cases. Victims of trafficking will be identified and assisted as survivors, not criminals.

The Women’s Fund of Southwest Florida presented a check for $150,000 to Florida Gulf Coast
University on Monday, Jan. 27. Pictured are Provost Ron Toll, President Wilson Bradshaw,
Brenda Tate, Lou Pontius, Jesus M. Casas and Lt. Brad Hamilton.

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