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Jacksonville mayor proclaims January as Human Trafficking Prevention Month

Local advocates say the issue is prevalent on the First Coast.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — January is now officially Human Trafficking Prevention Month in Jacksonville. 

Mayor Lenny Curry, alongside his wife Molly, presented the proclamation outside Rethreaded, a gift shop that employs only human trafficking survivors.

Rethreaded’s Founder Kristin Keen views this proclamation as a historical moment and a commitment from the city. The first commitment -- a mural outside Rethreaded.

Molly Curry says the art will be a collaboration between local artists and survivors, with a completion date projected for around April 2022.

She wants the art to reignite hope that they can prevent trafficking, and survivors can heal. 

Hope was handed over to Keen in the form of the proclamation. She stood in front of a crowd of survivors. 

“I stand before amazing women here who -- you fight and you fight and you do the hard work to be healed and pave the way," Keen said. "I am so proud of you. I am so proud to stand on this day.”

RELATED: From trafficked to survivor mentor: Lisa Sheehan shares story of overcoming human trafficking

Rethreaded is a gift shop with handmade crafts all made by survivors. It’s a place where they can find employment, healing and a community. Keen says without those things, survivors have an 85% chance of being trafficked again.

Keen says traffickers prey on people's vulnerabilities, which can be as complicated as addiction or as simple as believing you found love.

Their new space is tucked away in Springfield. It’s four times the size of their previous space, and they plan to eventually help four times as many women.

Keen says they've saved 70 women from human trafficking in Jacksonville, but the issue is prevalent and pervasive. 

Keen says she bets she could go to any hotel in town and there would be trafficking going on. 

Mayor Lenny Curry called it a heinous crime preying on innocent people.

"We often think of human trafficking as something that is far away, that's not part of many of our life, doesn't touch us," Curry said. "Truth and the fact is, it is right here in our community."

He says the burden cannot solely fall on organizations like Rethreaded to prevent and be aware of the issue. 

Keen says one of the first steps to saving someone is recognizing they are being trafficked.

Find resources here to learn how to identify a person being trafficked.

RELATED: Nephew of Camden County Sheriff charged with attempted drug trafficking after 13 pounds of meth reportedly found

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