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Tampa woman Anna Rodriguez fights back against human trafficking

4:45 PM, Jun 4, 2013   |    comments
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Clearwater, FL - Anna Rodriguez has been recognized and honored as a "MAKER."

MAKERS is a multi-platform initiative presented by Simple Skincare and created in partnership with AOL and PBS. It celebrates trailblazing women like Hillary Clinton, Sheryl Sandberg... and now Anna, the founder and director of the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

"In 2004, one of the biggest problems we had was we were finding victims, but we didn't know where to place the victims," she says.

A former advocate with Collier County Sheriff's Office, Anna says she knew this was her calling and retiring wasn't an option.

"At first I thought I was going to retire and stay home with my 2-year-old... [but] there was a need to put together programs for the victims, as well as education."

Tampa Bay is in the top ten nationally for domestic minor sex trafficking, and number three for human trafficking.

"We have all the fuel, we have tourism, and we have the agriculture, " Anna says.

Her passion to help human trafficking victims shows through a wall full of awards, from U.S. government officials and many other countries, as well as paintings from victims that participate in the art therapy program they offer.

"Every victim that we rescue, we work with them side-by-side," Anna explains. "We're constantly with them, we're guiding them and even after they leave our program, we're still in communication with them."

Celebrities like Ricky Martin have worked alongside Anna to help bring awareness.

"We have been working and fighting the same cause together and he's more than a partner, he's a very dear friend."

She also wrote a book about how she got involved and talks about some of the cases that have touched her the most.

"All the proceeds for the book are going to the coalition, so we can continue the work and continue providing services for the victims."

Anna says it's an uphill battle but with help and determination, it's a battle she is willing to fight.

"If I can make a difference in one person's life, then I have succeeded."

To learn more about Anna and the coalition, visit www.stophumantrafficking.org

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