Rape Crisis Center is Now Helping Human Trafficking Victims
The only state-certified rape and crisis center in Collier County is about to celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2016. Over the past year, the nature of the cases Project Help is seeing has changed.
It's counseling more human trafficking victims than ever before.
Eileen Wesley is the Sexual Assault Program Director at Project Help.
She said the agency works with people from victimization through sentencing, and beyond. The agency offers ongoing counseling, relocation funding assistance and other services for no charge.
“Everything is a little bit more heightened with human trafficking victims, because we don’t want them to leave,” said Wesley. “We want to help them. We try to from the very beginning build a very good bond with them and build the trust. Trust takes time with human trafficking victims.”
The Collier County Sheriff’s Office had 27 human trafficking investigations last year. That's 20 more than in 2013.
Detective Sergeant Wade Williams said how they understand sex trafficking cases has changed over the past few years. He said few cases go to trial.
New procedures for interviewing victims has improved their ability to identify these types of cases.
He said a lot of sex trafficking is moving to the internet, and all of the human trafficking reports within the past year and a half have been sex trafficking.
“All these situations are, in my opinion, very depraved situations on the part of the trafficker,” said Williams. “We’re talking about exceptionally vulnerable victims who are already suffering from, in many cases, abuse and neglect, and have their whole life. And they’re taking advantage of those vulnerabilities and committing even worse crimes against them.”
Williams said sometimes all the Collier County Sheriff’s Office needs is a tip to lead to a potential investigation.
People can remain anonymous and use Crime Stoppers or Project Help’s 24/7 Crisis Hotline to report suspicious activity.
Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers: (800) 780-8477
Project Help 24/7 Crisis Hotline: (239) 262-7227
Office: 239-649-1404 Email: email@example.com