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  • Writer's pictureSavannah Parvu

The Florida Legislature Failed to Hold Hotels Accountable for Human Trafficking

Testifying before the Commerce Committee in April 2023
Testifying before the Florida House Commerce Committee April 2023

I have been back in Tallahassee this Legislative Session meeting with legislators and

testifying in committee meetings advocating to get legislation passed that would have

helped me when I was a child being trafficked out of hotels in Central Florida. The bill I

was advocating for would have allowed for a civil cause of action, not just for hotels, but

all those complicit in facilitating human trafficking.

The bill passed through its first two committee stops with unanimous support. I was

encouraged by the response of the members of the committees who had heard the bill

and voted for it. During the Judiciary Committee, Representative Maney suggested an

amendment to the bill for hotels and other facilities that knowingly allow human

trafficking to forfeit their property. Representative Leek referred to it as “the most

importable bill going through the Legislature this session.” The words spoken by the

committee members gave me HOPE.

Florida Legislature
With Representative Yarkosky in Tallahassee

Unfortunately, after the bill passed the Judiciary Committee, it was suddenly stripped of the civil cause of action for everything except for adult theaters. This sudden and unexpected change felt like a slap in the face to me and every other survivor who has been trafficked out of hotels in Florida. It appeared that once again, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association pulled the right strings to get hotels excluded from the bill.

We have been trying to get legislation like this passed in Florida for years, but each time we try, no matter how far the bill goes in session, hotels are always suddenly removed from the bill. In 2019, I personally witnessed the President of FRLA waive in support of a bill that required training for hotels and public lodging establishments and then privately threaten to kill the bill if hotels were not given full immunity.

We recognize that there are many hotels that are doing the right thing by training their

staff to recognize and report human trafficking and this year we included safeguards in

the bill to protect them from any potential frivolous lawsuits by providing them an

affirmative defense.

It’s vital that we have a civil cause of action in order for hotels to be held accountable

because the hotels who knowingly facilitate human trafficking are not going to stop until

there is. This is so important to me because my nightmare began when I was just 12

years old. My innocence, childhood and security were ripped away from me as I was

trafficked and sold to multiple men a night out of a Central Florida hotel room.

You might think if only I could reach hotel staff I could have been saved and my story

might have turned out differently. But that was not the case. The people who worked at

the hotel knew exactly what was going on, and they did nothing to stop it. They did

nothing to help me. They did nothing. Oftentimes, they actually assisted my trafficker by

escorting men in and out of the hotel room.

Members of the Florida Legislature could have been the hope I needed when I was a

little girl. They had the power to let survivors know that our lives and the trauma we

endured matter and let the world know that they are serious about doing what it takes to win the war against human trafficking in our great state, but instead they chose to pass this piece of legislation with only a civil cause of action for adult theaters.

I remain thankful for Representatives Yarkosky, Overdorf, Maney, Leek, Gregory,

Joseph, Barnaby, Tant, Senator Book, and other members who spoke up and wanted to

do the right thing, and I am hopeful we will have their support moving forward next year.

I'm also thankful for an amazing team that worked hard on this bill and supported me

and encouraged me to not give up.

Testifying to Members of the Florida Legislature
My amazing team in Tallahassee

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