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Set Free Refuge speaks on local human trafficking problem

Human trafficking is a real problem happening all around the world. At any given moment, there are an estimated 27.6 million victims of human trafficking, according to the U.S. Department of State. But did you know it’s happening right here in Northwest Florida?
On opening weekend, “Sound of Freedom” beat out Disney’s “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.”

Set Free Refuge, Inc is a non-profit organization, here in Navarre, dedicated to helping survivors of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, and sex trafficking. They know all about this very real issue.

The recent film “Sound of Freedom” has brought attention to the plague of human trafficking. The movie was released on July 4 and has had the whole nation talking about the reality of child human trafficking.

The film ranked first at the box office opening weekend, beating out Disney’s “Indiana Jones” and generating $14.24 million on the first day. Since then, it has had continued success in the theaters and brought in over $165 million, according to

More importantly, it has sparked conversation about child human trafficking and is getting people to ask themselves, “what can I do to help?”

The thriller/drama is based on the true story of former Homeland Security agent Tim Ballard and his mission to rescue trafficked children in Columbia through a real sting operation he led alongside Columbian authorities.

The film brings awareness to this very real issue, but Set Free Refuge wants to continue the conversation and be the resource for people who want to help locally.

“How trafficking looks here in America is different than what we saw in the movie,” Clinical Manager EJ Dickens said. “Here in the U.S., typically it is someone the child knows. It’s typically not a random stranger.”
“They’re already a part of the life of the child. And more particularly here, in our area, we have a lot of familial trafficking,” Executive Director Marcie Landreth said. This could be the child’s mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle or cousin.

According to the Department of Children and Families Human Trafficking Report, Escambia County had the third highest rate of human trafficking survivors than anywhere else in the state.

Escambia had over 50 children designated as trafficking survivors and Santa Rosa County only had 2.

“That doesn’t make sense, and it’s probably going unnoticed and unreported,” Landreth said.

A lot of the trafficking and child exploitation happening in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa County is taking place in more rural areas, far from resources.

“In my mind, one of the biggest points to the movie is that it is happening and it’s happening here. We need to recognize it and we need to report it,” she said.

The state of Florida has a new Anti-Human Trafficking Hotline. If you see or know about any human trafficking taking place, please call 888-FLA-SAFE.

You must be very careful about who you leave your children with or welcome into your home, they said. You also need to have intentional and uncomfortable conversations with your children about healthy boundaries.

Set Free Refuge is a safe place for sexually exploited and human trafficked women to break free from the mental and physical bounds of the sex industry.

Set Free Refuge believes every sexually exploited and human trafficked woman can find freedom, healing, and restoration. They strive to guide these women on their journey of healing.

“We want to just love them where they’re at and that’s where true healing begins,” she said.

Set Free Refuge is in the process of getting their new three-bedroom two-and-a-half-bathroom house ready for four new residents. They need the community’s help with furnishing the house and stocking it with supplies. Please check out their Amazon Wishlist (visit and help in any way you can. Any contributions will help make this house a home.

“At The Refuge, our clients receive not only housing, food, case management but emotional and spiritual support,” Landreth said. “Our goal is to wrap our arms around these young women without anything in return.”

Set Free Refuge
8418 East Bay Boulevard, Navarre, FL 32566
(850) 463-5191

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