Sex trafficking has become a significant problem around the world. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 2004 and 2013, the number of people that were prosecuted for commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) doubled. Many people are surprised to find out it is happening closer to home than they realize. Even Disney World in Florida isn’t immune from child exploitation.
What Happened in Florida?
In August 2021, a total of 17 people were arrested in Polk County, Florida, as part of a Florida child-sex sting. Three of those individuals arrested were employees of Walt Disney World. One individual was a lifeguard at the Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge. The two other employees were custodians at Hollywood Studios. They were charged with 49 felonies and two misdemeanors, which include using a computer to seduce a child and transmission of material harmful to a child, traveling to a minor for sex, attempted lewd battery, and use of a computer to seduce a child and transmission of material harmful to kids.
Police were able to catch the criminals when they posed as a 13-year-old and 14-year-old on a dating website and social media apps. The offenders set up times to meet them for sex through these apps. Most of the individuals were from the Central Florida area, except for one man that traveled from Los Angeles. Sadly, this is not the first time employees from Disney have been arrested for offenses related to child sex abuse. From 2006 through 2014, as many as 35 Disney employees have been arrested for similar crimes.
The two employees from Hollywood Studios have been put on unpaid leave depending on the outcome of the case. The person who claimed he worked for Animal Kingdom was not an employee of Disney. The two custodians have been a couple. One of the custodians blamed the other and claimed she only went along with it. She claims she did not know the ages of the girls until they were headed to the location.
What are They Doing About It?
Florida had attempted to address these problems back in 2018 when they brought forth legislation that allowed a hotel to be sued for ignoring human trafficking. Many advocates have asked Disney to take a stand on human trafficking. Disney has not taken a stand either way about sex trafficking. The lobbyists for Walt Disney Parks remained silent when it came to the legislation. The silence of Disney ends up speaking volumes about their stance on the issue.
Orlando, Florida, is a huge attraction to those who love theme parks. They are also third in the nation for the reports received on the human trafficking line. There are a number of restaurants, clubs, bars, and hotels that are aware of the problems, but they ignore them. Washington, D.C., and Atlanta rise above Orlando in the number of reports. There are many places that fall victim to sex trafficking, including the 1,580 U.S. resorts and 204,100 units as of 2019. Tourism makes cities more likely to fall victim to sexual exploitation.
It is commonly believed that the opioid crisis prompts addicts to fall into sex trafficking. In addition, those involved in sex trafficking life may not be addicts at first, but they may ultimately become addicts. Methadone is a powerful drug that stays in the body for a long time. It can stay in the body for as long as one to three days. The federal and state governments are coming down hard on sex trafficking and drug use with stricter laws which result in stiff penalties and jail time.