WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) — A local organization helping sex trafficking survivors is joining forces with the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office to combat the nightmare plaguing our state.
Leaders are hoping to switch the focus, by going after the people who support this illicit crime.
After 13 years, West Palm Beach-based Hepzibah House is still going strong. CEO Becky Dymond and her team help the desperate and frightened women caught up in the dark world.
“This is what I was made for,” said Hepzibah House CEO Becky Dymond. “I was born to make a difference in this particular issue in this county.”
This licensed therapist, her team, and members of the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office lead a class for people -- mostly men -- who've been arrested on prostitution and solicitation charges.
It's called "The Buyers and Sellers’ School," or "Palm Beach County John School." But the courts call it a diversion program.
The goal is rehabilitation.
Its teachers pull back the curtain, showing the often sad and inhuman side.
“We’re looking at male socialization dehumanization, what it means to buy someone like you would buy a hamburger,” explained Dymond. “And sexual addictions that a lot of times feed into that.”
The so-called “Johns” participate in educational and therapeutic courses like the facts and myths of prostitution.
They get to hear straight from survivors themselves in hopes of stopping the pattern of targeting vulnerable naïve runaways or troubled teens who often get hooked on drugs or alcohol.
“The recidivism rate is quite low for people for people who have taken the class,” said Dymond. “The guys universally said this made a difference. I will make different choices going forward because of the class. That’s the critical piece."
There’s also a similar class for those survivors who are taken into custody.
“We’re looking at early childhood trauma, molestation, domestic violence all of those things,” Dymond said. “Those are the ones who really need it. Those who have been doing it all their lives. Those who can’t imagine a different way to survive.”
For those who agree to enter the program and complete it, the original charge will be cleared through the D.A Office.
This program is for those who are facing misdemeanor solicitation or prostitution charges. It’s a felony after the third charge – this doesn’t work for those cases.
For more information, visit Hepzibah House.
Reports of human trafficking is a big issue in the state of Florida.
Florida has the third-most reports of human trafficking in the country.
READ MORE: 'I was going to die:' Sex slave victim shares story of survival; new safe house to open