Did you know Florida is number three in the nation for most human trafficking victims?
Ten-year human trafficking survivor Tina Kadolph has much to say about the underground crime coursing through the veins of America.
Ms. Kadolph shared her powerful, personal story from victim to victor with the West Volusia Regional Chamber of Commerce and the public Tuesday, Oct. 15, in DeBary.
She explained trafficking has become such a bigger deal today because of the Internet, the frequent use of mobile phones as well as that parents are giving their children phones at younger ages.
During the presentation, a long list of applications (also referred to as apps) were presented on the projector. These apps are used by traffickers to lure children.
Though the list was long, Ms. Kadolph explained why every single app on phones is unsafe.
“If you are allowing your children to have access to the Internet, you are allowing them to be able to be contacted by a stranger,” she said. “Pay attention and be present with your children.”
It took Ms. Kadolph many years to be able to share her personal story as a human trafficking survivor.
She went on to play a short video that told the audience about her personal suffering and the reason she does what she does as an advocate for human rights.
“Because of the trauma, I blocked it out of my memory. I had pieces that I remember, like the first encounter, but so many memories were just blocked out,” she said.
As a result of not dealing with the trauma, in her 30s she was hospitalized for having a mental breakdown.
“I hadn’t dealt with anything so my body just finally couldn’t deal with it any longer,” she explained.
She went through treatment and started to deal with what happened to her from the ages of 4 to around 15.
In 2000, her and her husband of 35 years, Carl Kadolph, started a non-profit organization appropriately named “Love Missions.”
“We started with it being mission trips – taking people to different destinations – and in about 2012, we started talking more about human trafficking. It became a very big focus as we realized the importance of it locally,” she said.
Ms. Kadolph and her husband have fought to stop sex trafficking and child exploitation in numerous ways ever since.
Not only do they own a coffee shop, Palate in Oviedo, that donates 100% of its profits into “Love Missions’”to fight human trafficking, but they also opened a safe house, the “Sunflower House,” in South America that houses girls ages 4 to 11 that have been brought out of the sex trade.
It was that Ms. Kadolph wanted to run away from talking about human trafficking for fear of judgment from others and shame.
Today, however, she does speaking engagements throughout the country, because she realizes many people need to hear her story and know they too could overcome the terror and trauma.
“Not that the scars aren’t there, because they will always be there, but you can overcome it and be successful in life,” she said. “I want to empower young people to know that if they’ve been trafficked, that can be business owners, that they can be teachers, that they can be whatever they want.”
The hostages of human trafficking walk among us every day and we just don’t know it.
For this reason, Ms. Kadolph also fought for lasting legislative change in Tallahassee.
“It just got passed that it’s going to be part of the health curriculum for all public schools so that children can be taught what to watch for when someone wants to lure them in,” she said.
She also fought to hold hotels more accountable. All hotels will now have to train their employees to know what to look for.
“If a child is being trafficked in a hotel, they need to do something about it,” she said.
After explaining some of the potential red flags and indicators of human trafficking, Ms. Kadolph urged everyone to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888 or text “help” to BeFree (23733) if they ever suspect human trafficking.
“You can even call anonymously. If it’s nothing you’re OK. If it’s something, you saved a life,” she said.
Ms. Kadolph concluded her speech highlighting the silver lining of her tragedy.
“I believe that God told me that he was going to use my story for good and today I get to be a part of seeing that happen,” she said.