Thursday, April 10, 2014

CCSO Human Trafficking Victim Advocate Honored

 From left, Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Collier County Sheriff's Office Victim Advocate Marisol Schloendorn, state Attorney General Pam Bondi, and state Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam. Schloendorn was honored as Outstanding Victim Advocate for her work with victims of human trafficking at a ceremony in Tallahassee on Wednesday. Photo by Sgt. Wade Williams/CCSO    

In her seven years as a crime victim advocate, Marisol Schloendorn has earned the trust of dozens of victims of a largely invisible and exploited population.

Working with detectives and prosecutors, Schloendorn counsels victims of human trafficking, attends court hearings for emotional support, leads community events to identify victims and much more.

On Wednesday, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi presented Schloendorn with the 2014 Distinguished Services Award for Outstanding Victim Advocate. Schloendorn was honored for her outstanding support of crime victims at a ceremony in Tallahassee commemorating National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. 

Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk was also honored at the ceremony. Sheriff Rambosk was named 2014 Outstanding Law Enforcement Officer for his service to the community on behalf of victims of domestic violence.

This is the second time in four years that CCSO victim advocates have been honored by the state. In 2010, CCSO Victim Services Supervisor Angela Larson and Victim Advocate Lisa Kaye were named Florida’s Victim Advocates of the Year.

Schloendorn has been assigned to the Human Trafficking Unit since 2006, though her responsibilities are many.

In 2013, she worked seven human trafficking cases that involved both foreign and domestic victims. She also provided services and referrals to victims and family members in two homicide cases, five death investigations, more than 20 sexual battery cases and more than 15 domestic violence cases. In addition, she completed 30 U-Visas, which allows crime victims who meet certain requirements stay in the United States.

Human trafficking cases can be the most complicated and time-consuming cases law enforcement agencies can investigate. When a victim is rescued from a trafficking situation they commonly have nothing except the clothes on their back. They typically suffer from a variety of problems that include drug and alcohol addiction, mental illness and past traumatic abuse.

Due to their delicate situation, building their trust and providing them with the myriad services that they need to reintegrate into society can be an extremely difficult task. For Schloendorn this usually means texts and phone calls day and night, and responding to victims when they are in crisis. It also means arranging and taking victims to necessary appointments and interviews, helping them get required documents such as a driver’s license, and other necessary functions.

“The victim advocate must be able to break the psychological chains of the trafficker, provide all of the necessary services, stay in constant communication and build a quality rapport with the victim if we are to succeed in the prosecution,” wrote Sgt. Wade Williams, supervisor of the sheriff’s Exploitation Section, in his letter nominating Schloendorn for the award. “Marisol is very successful in doing all of these things.” 

Schloendorn recognizes that working closely with the community is one of the best ways to serve and to identify victims. She organizes annual outreach events to raise awareness and to develop information regarding human trafficking. These events typically draw 300 to 800 people as well as local media and public officials.

Schloendorn frequently adjusts her work schedule to provide these services, which means working many nights and weekends. She constantly goes out of her way to innovate new ways of providing the best services for victims and for new ways of identifying victims.

“She doesn’t simply do what is required of her,” Sgt. Williams wrote. “She feels a personal sense of responsibility to the victims in her cases.”