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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Salvation Army Helps Victims of Human Trafficking

In Ohio, the Salvation Army provides numerous resources designed to help victims of human trafficking.

The Salvation Army's continual care includes coordinating a 24-hour human trafficking hotline on behalf of the entire Central Ohio area.

(Resources: If you suspect someone is a trafficking victim, call our 24-hour hotline 614.285.HELP(4357) or contact Kelli Cary by emailing or calling 614.358.2614.)

Click here for information on the website:

Within that continual care, the Salvation Army is the primary victim advocate for law enforcement, so someone is there with victims to immediately start to figure out their needs and assist them. Also, the Salvation Army has been conducting street outreach in order to protect those impacted by human trafficking in Columbus and in other cities.

Michelle Hannan, the director of professional and community services for the Salvation Army of Central Ohio, recently spoke about human trafficking in Ohio at Ohio State University's Thompson Library.

Hannan related some horrible stories to attendees. Here are a few of which she spoke:

* Human traffickers held a woman with cognitive disabilities and her child being held captive in Ashland, Ohio, a city approximately 80 miles northeast of Columbus. They were allegedly forced to perform manual labor and were subjected to rape and extreme brutality.

“This case is an ugly example of the brutality human traffickers use because they were treated like dogs in a lot of ways,” , said. “They were forced to wear collars and forced to eat food from a bowl on the ground. These techniques are used to break them down, so they won’t get help.”

* In another instance, Hannan reported a 15-year-old girl from a troubled home in Delaware County,  north of Franklin County, ran away to escape abuse, Hannan said. She was “befriended” by a trafficker who pretended to love and care for her, but who then allegedly forced her into prostitution for his profit, Hannan added.

“Once she is intensely bonded to him, he starts selling her for sex in Central Ohio,” Hannan said. “Here we have a young person whose vulnerability is that it’s not safe at home.”

* Speaking of yet another case, Hannan told of David Nelms of Columbus, who allegedly forced opiate-addicted women into sex trafficking, catering to paying customers at upscale hotels in Franklin and Delaware counties. She said Nelms used victims’ drug addictions to compel their obedience by withholding drugs until they complied with his demands.

“If you know a lot about opiate withdrawal, if you’re addicted to opiates and you suddenly don’t have them, your body’s response to that is to feel like you’re going to die,” Hannan said. “It’s the best control technique ever invented.”

Many of the victims of human trafficking are afraid to seek help. Hannan explained: “Because there is inherent criminal activity in what people are forced to do, the traffickers use that to scare them into not getting help.”

(Emily Shiever. "Human trafficking a close-to-home problem, expert says."
The Lantern. February 10, 2015)          

Shedding the light on victims has helped to change attitudes towards people trapped in trafficking and forced to engage in selling themselves. These victims should be given supportive services rather than treated like criminals and given jail time.

A study released in 2012 surveyed more than 300 women involved in the sex trade in five Ohio cities and asked when and how they were recruited and surveyed their experiences. The study revealed that 35 percent of these women were sex trafficked as minors, and were most often recruited at some point by a female who was also involved in selling herself or who first acted like a friend.

Those who were sex trafficked as children reported having experienced child abuse and neglect, having a close family member involved in the sex trade, suffering depression, being raped, having difficulty in school and being in proximity of those who bought or sold others for sex.

The biggest risk factor associated with a child recruited into sex trafficking was having a history of running away from home. Sixty-three percent of those who were sex trafficked as minors reported having run away one or more times before they were trafficked.

(Melinda Sykes Haggerty. "2012 Domestic Sex Trafficking Report 2"
Ohio Attorney General's Office. 2012)

Here are some of the findings from the Ohio Human Trafficking Commission by city:

Percent reporting being forced into the trade before they were 18:

Columbus: 44 percent
Toledo: 40 percent
Cincinnati: 33 percent
Dayton: 26 percent
Cleveland: 15 percent

Three highest risk factors for victims forced into the sex trade before they were 18:

- Cleveland: 71 percent reported having been raped, 57 percent said they worried about where to sleep and eat, and 49 percent reported having a much older boyfriend.

- Cincinnati: 60 percent reported having a much older boyfriend, 60 percent reported dropping out of school and 40 percent reported having been raped.

- Dayton: 60 percent reported having been raped, 40 percent reported having a much older boyfriend and 40 percent said they worried about where to sleep and eat.

- Toledo: 58 percent having a much older boyfriend, 53 percent reported having been raped and 53 percent reported having a poor family.

- Columbus: 43 percent reported having been raped, 46 percent said they worried about where to sleep and eat, and 44 percent reported having difficulty in school.

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