A victim’s story: The reality of being trafficked

Reporter: Lois Thome Writer: Jackie Winchester
Published: Updated:

Florida is a hotbed for human trafficking. We’re in the top three in the country for the number of cases, yet most people wouldn’t know it if they walked right by it.

In just days, a new human trafficking law takes full effect. Its goal: to spot human trafficking and rescue victims.

Savannah Parvu had a painful, unimaginable childhood.

“I started being sexually abused by a neighbor around the age of five,” she said.

“My dad had a stroke that left him disabled when I was nine, and after that, my mom got involved in more drugs.”

Then her mom started selling her body for drugs, Parvu said, and eventually, “there was a time when I was 11 that her drug dealer offered a $10 piece of crack for me instead of for her.”

That’s when the human trafficking started.

“Sometimes they would take me to hotels. We went to one hotel a lot, and at that hotel, the staff there were friends with my trafficker, and so he would take me and leave me there and the staff would open up the door and let people in.”

See the full interview with Savannah Parvu:


A lot of the human trafficking takes place in hotels,” said Heather Fitzenhagen, who sponsored Florida’s new law, which requires training for hotel workers so they recognize human trafficking.

“You know, someone looking away, someone not coming out of the room, people coming in and out of that same room, things you might have turned a blind eye to, but now you know that it is indicative of a horrible crime taking place,” Fitzenhagen said.

Law enforcement and medical personnel are also required to take an education course.

“These people that are trafficked, they are basically kidnapped, put into this slavery of trafficking, they’re often force-fed or become addicted to drugs, so you could save a life if you could be more aware.”

Parvu played a huge role in getting the bill signed into law. She has been a survivor for seven years and is now a nationally-recognized speaker on human trafficking.

“I wanna be the person that I needed when I was younger,” she said.

“Trying to put things in place that would’ve helped me and will hopefully help other victims.”

“I’m just so incredibly proud of her,” Fitzenhagen said. “And her dedication and her perseverance and her surviving is just, I mean it is overwhelmingly inspiring.”

“I wanna do everything I can to make a difference,” Parvu said.

Florida’s new law mandates training for hotel workers within 60 days of being hired and requires them to call police if they see any signs of human trafficking.

Parvu said that no one ever intervened on her behalf.

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