In Florida, human trafficking is a huge problem.  The sunshine state is ranked third in the country based on the amount of calls the National Trafficking Hotline gets from the state.  But state leaders are hopeful a new smartphone app will help reverse the trend. 

Katariina Rosenblatt says she got pulled into the world of human sex trafficking just by going to school. 

“My public school system where my friend’s father was a trafficker.  And he was recruiting other kids, and he sold us to a brothel in Broward County,” said Rosenblatt, a former trafficking victim. 

Rosenblatt was able to eventually escape and now works to help others who’ve become victims.  But a new app is designed to help prevent young girls and boys from ever becoming a victim in the first place.   

The Lifeboat Project in Central Florida designed the ACT (Awareness Combats Trafficking) app.  It’s designed as a fun game directed mainly to 11 to 14 year olds.  But within the very interactive game lies a very serious message. 

One part of the app asks the user to go through and identify potentially dangerous people in a mall.  Some are obvious.  Some are not so obvious.  

“For me as a survivor I was triggered so I had to leave the room while they were presenting it, because the examples were so real life,” said Rosenblatt. 

“And children see so much, but sometimes they don’t know what they’re looking at.  And so we just want to keep them safe,” said Jill Bolander Cohen, Founder and Executive Director of The Lifeboat Project. 

The Lifeboat Project presented the app to the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking’s meeting at UCF Tuesday.  State leaders like the app so much, they want to make it part of the curriculum in Florida schools. 

“The educators were totally blown away by it.  So I just received word now that several of the counties are going to jump on board with engineering and computer simulation of The Lifeboat Project to get this into the hands of our children,” said Cohen. 

“I think it’s an excellent idea that very child should automatically have built into their phone,” said Rosenblatt. 

The app is not available yet.  But its creators hope to have it online by January, when anyone will be able to download the app through the Apple store or Google Play directly to their mobile devices.  And the app will be completely free.

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