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Monday, January 26, 2015

Ohio Human Trafficking: A Scioto Concern

Human Trafficking

Do you even know what human trafficking is? The legal definition of human trafficking under US federal law is: "the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery."

"Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises worldwide. A preliminary report into the scale of sex trafficking in the state by the attorney general’s office found that 50% of victims were under 18 when they were first trafficked.

"A recent study on sex trafficking in Ohio showed 1,078 children were trafficked each year and another 2,879 were at risk of becoming victims. Of those children, about 64 percent of young sex trafficking victims lived in a home where at least one parent abused drugs, according to research from the University of Toledo."

(Taken from a report issued by the Attorney General of Ohio)

In 2012, Governor Kasich formed The Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force to marshal the state’s resources to provide wraparound services for victims and punish the perpetrators of this horrible crime.

Across the state of Ohio, the drug trade and the sex trade go hand in hand, said Jeff Orr, president of the Ohio Task Force Commanders Association. Women will sell their bodies for money to get their next fix, and criminals are eager to take advantage.

Violent criminals such as Ali Salim and Rashaune Ramsey used heroin and other drugs to lure women into sexual abuse. Salim, a former doctor, was sentenced to 36 years in prison for killing a pregnant Pataskala, Ohio, woman by injecting her with heroin. After she was incapacitated, he recorded himself having sex with her, according to The Associated Press.

Salim apparently used Craigslist to meet sexual partners and frequently referenced exchanging drugs for sex, according to the AP report.

"In a world where gift cards, food stamps and stolen products
are exchanged for drugs, it shouldn't be surprising
that sex is turned into currency as well."

(Kristina Smith. "Sex and drugs: A dangerous combination."
The Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum. October 22, 2014)

Keturah Schroeder, managing director of Freedom a la Cart, a nonprofit organization that helps survivors of human trafficking by teaching them catering skills, reports, "Sex traffickers or pimps will groom young women, many with troubled pasts, by providing them with drugs and treating them like their girlfriends. Then, the tone changes. After a few months of grooming, (it becomes) now you owe me and you have to work it off."

Some drug dealers will attempt to move up the ranks by offering "party packages." They will send women to deliver the drugs and offer sex as well, Schroeder said.

Rashaune Ramsey, who conspired crimes with another man, was believed to have sexually or physically assaulted as many as 30 victims. He traded drugs for other services as well. For example, a man would pick up dry cleaning or buy groceries for Ramsey in exchange for drugs.

"He told this guy he wasn't free to leave," Mansfield, Ohio police Chief Ken Coontz said. "He'd been there like a month. He became a servant."

Eventually, Ramsey was sentenced to 25 years to life for raping a 31-year-old woman who was trying to get clean from narcotics.

(Kristina Smith. "Sex and drugs: A dangerous combination."
The Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum. October 22, 2014)

Christopher Hisle, 45, was arrested on April 8, 2014, in Louisville, Kentucky after authorities said he drove a young woman from Cincinnati to Louisville to engage in prostitution at a nearby Red Roof Inn.

An FBI investigation later revealed Hisle was involved in forcing and compelling the women to engage in commercial sex for at least two years. He held the women at his Avondale home. It is unknown how many women Hisle held at one time and what their ages were, yet authorities said at least 12 women were victims of his human trafficking operation.

Hisle reportedly assaulted several of his victims. Authorities said Hisle locked the women in his house by boarding and locking all the doors and windows. Only the front door was capable of opening, and only Hisle had the key, agents said.

Hisle created escort advertisements for some of the women and directed one of them to post the advertisements on websites like

(Maxim Alter. "FBI: Man locked women in Cincinnati home, used them as sex slaves."
WCPO Scripps TV Station. November 14, 2014)

Jennifer Kempton of Columbus, Ohio, used to display a tattoo on her neck -- a crude black crown and the words “King Munch” – the insignia of the dope gang that sold her for sex out of boarded-up houses in a poor suburb of Columbus. Men had also tattooed their names on her arm and her back. Just above her groin another announced that she was “Property of Salem," marking her as her pimp's possession and money-maker.

She has recently had tattoo artists cover up and alter these markers that once labeled her as human property. She is free and sober.

Kempton says once she was "branded like cattle" and forced into a journey that led to the darkness of human trafficking. She was one of many women who work the sex trade on the streets of downtown Columbus.

Approximately a year and a half ago, she was, in her own words, "exhausted, starved, addicted and barely alive." She survived an attempted suicide and managed to escape the streets into sobriety and recovery.

Yet, even after she freed herself of the gangs and the drugs, the tattoos on Kempton's body kept her trapped in that life, unable to move on. Read her own words:

“Those tattoos to me meant betrayal, because I went from thinking I was in the first loving relationship of my life with a guy who treated me like a queen, to becoming an addict and being sold by him to supply his drug habit,” she says. “And then he sold me again for financial gain to a known gang that put me on the streets and took me to the darkest point in my life.

“And after enduring this, being raped and beaten and abused, and after getting clean of my addiction, every time I took a shower or tried to look at my body I was reminded of the violence and exploitation I’d suffered. I was so grateful to be alive, but having to look at those scars, seeing those names on your body every day, just puts you in a state of depression. You begin to wonder whether you’ll ever be anything but the person those tattoos say you are.”

(Annie Kelly. "'I carried his name on my body for nine years’: the tattooed trafficking
survivors reclaiming their past." The Guardian. November 15, 2014)

So, after maintaining her sobriety; juggling her 50-hour work weeks; going to trauma therapy and church; in addition to seeing her daughter, Jennifer decided to try to help other women in Columbus marked by addiction and trafficking brands such as she had.

She launched Survivors Ink, a grassroots project that runs a tattoo scholarship program in which women who have lived through human trafficking, and have been clean and in recovery for more than six months, can apply to get their tattoos covered up. So far she’s given out seven scholarships, raising the money through local fundraisers at churches, universities and community events.

How Extensive Is Human Trafficking?

Those in the field estimate hundreds of thousands of women and girls – the majority of whom are U.S. citizens – are sold for sexual exploitation in America’s $9.5 billion human-trafficking industry. According to the US Department of Justice, 300,000 of those at risk are children.

Pimp-led prostitution is widely considered one of the most brutal and violent of all forms of human trafficking found in the States. Brad Myles is chief executive of Polaris Project, an influential US anti-trafficking organization.

“When you look at this particular type of trafficking,” Myles says, “where you have thousands of self-labeled pimps selling hundreds of thousands of women and children for profit in every state across America, the branding is all part of the extreme nature of the ways they control and profit from this trade.”

Full of Misunderstandings

CC Murphy, who runs Ohio's Catch program, which offers women facing jail terms for soliciting and prostitution an alternative in the form of a three-year residential recovery and reintegration program, reports that huge misunderstandings exist about the nature of sex trafficking, particularly in relation to street prostitution and drug addiction.

“I think the majority of people still think of trafficking as all foreign or all overseas, but it isn’t what normally happens,” she says, sitting in her small office in the Columbus courthouse. “Trafficking is right next door. It can be very small and very local. It can just be a woman in a relationship with another drug user who is ordering her to solicit to support both of their habits. It doesn’t have to be a giant syndicate or some huge crime ring. It’s normally just Joe down the street who is manipulating and profiting from his girlfriend or children.”

“There is a huge misconception about the choices women make,” Murphy says. “There are always men waiting for the girl whose father keeps hitting her or coming into her room at night, or whose mother is not present, or drunk, or high. These men often give them the first hope of love and protection they’ve ever had, and once they’re inside their heads – especially if addiction is part of that dynamic – then the psychological and emotional manipulation is often more powerful than the physical stuff.”

Victims of human trafficking often feel as if they have no options and no hope.

The National Runaway Safeline (click estimates that one third of all teenage run-aways will be approached by a potential exploiter within 48 hours of leaving home.

(Annie Kelly. "'I carried his name on my body for nine years’: the tattooed trafficking
survivors reclaiming their past." The Guardian. November 15, 2014)

Of Local Concern

"In Plain Sight! Human Trafficking Awareness" is an awareness event sponsored by Jeremy and Kadie Lancaster on February 28, 2015, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. at the New Boston Community Center.

It will be hosted by Private Investigator Lilly Swartz-Paisley and Audra Wofter Ladd. Please attend this local gathering to learn more about trafficking. I encourage you to become informed and involved. Thank you.

You can check the Facebook information by clicking here and expressing your desire to attend:

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