Sarasota News Leader

06/06/2014

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Derek Thompson read off a string of num- bers at a Payne Park press conference on Wednesday morning, June 4: 43, 31, 22, 26, 35, 14, 24. "These are the number of men arrested in sex sting operations along the Florida Gulf Coast recently," he said. "They were fully expecting to have sex with children 13 or 14 years old." Thompson is working at the More Too Life Foundation to stop sex trafficking, and he's trying a new tactic – slowing demand. "Who are these people?" he asked. "Are they social outcasts or drifters?" Quite the contrary, he said. Most are middle-class, middle-aged married men with no criminal background, he added. In late April, the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office arrested 12 people who traveled here "with the intent to have sex with a male or female child," a press release stated. "One of the suspects is an armed security guard who thought he was going to have sex with a mother and her 12-year-old daughter." Their ages ranged from 20 to 43. They were from Sarasota, Clearwater, Tampa, Ruskin, Palmetto, Englewood and Bradenton. They all responded to Internet posts and then engaged in "explicit written and verbal conversations," the release said. Each contact was to cul- minate in a discrete suburban rendezvous, but inside the house, deputies were waiting. T h o m p s o n w o r k s with Brook Bello at the More Too Life Foundation. Bello was a runaway teenager in California who became ensnared in human trafficking for sex. Once free and her addictions broken, Bello became a passionate advocate for those too young and helpless to resist. "We must end the demand," she said. "Men are the biggest part of the prob- lem with trafficking." Thompson says the problem is "indicative of a much larger story — the demand for com- mercial sex in America. We live in a society grooming a generation of men to be buyers, users and addicts. If we chose to do nothing, what can we expect? It will get a lot worse." "We need to educate men on the role they can play to put an end to it," continued Thompson. "Young boys are getting the message every day, hundreds or thousands of times a day: Sex is something that can be bought and con- sumed. We need to make a difference in the lives of young boys." The group will provide training on Saturday, June 7, at 8:45 a.m. at the Harvest Tabernacle, located at 209 N. Lime Ave. for all interested persons. It will be free with refreshments and lunch served, though donations will be appreciated. To RSVP, email programs@more- toolife.org. The training will touch on victim identifica- tion, Florida's human trafficking laws and empowering commu- nity leaders. Said Bello, "We cannot give up on our children even if they gave up on themselves." % SARASOTA GROUP WANTS TO SPARE CHILDREN FROM ABUSE By Stan Zimmerman City Editor We must end the demand. Brook Bello CEO/Founder More Too Life Foundation Sarasota News Leader June 6, 2014 Page 46

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