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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Scioto, Ohio, National Human Trafficking: "In Plain Sight"

"According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Toledo is the fourth largest recruitment site for human trafficking in the country. In central Ohio, it is estimated that 88 percent of human trafficking involves sex slavery, 75 percent are female and 84 percent are American born citizens."

I believe it would behoove us all to look at information from the Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force and their "Recommendations to Governor John R. Kasich (June 27, 2012).  A recent rash of homicides and disappearances from Southern Ohio demands our immediate attention. I strongly believe a connection to a local human trafficking network might be established and, thus, aid in solving these kidnappings and murders.

Here in Scioto County we experience significant human trafficking. Those who choose to be indifferent to prostitution and master/slave relationships of abusers and the less fortunate while viewing the problems as small, insignificant "bothers" should establish more open communication with past victims. Through investigation, citizens will find the links that help feed a criminal system are shocking. Exposure is lacking. Transparency is nil.

Each year an estimated 1,078 Ohio children become victims of human trafficking and 3,016 more are at-risk. Of course, older, vulnerable Ohioans are also prey for those involved in trafficking. The public knowledge of human trafficking is low. Because many are unaware of this human slavery, it happens in our own backyards and often goes undetected.

Human trafficking is the illegal trade of human beings for commercial sexual exploitation and
forced labor. As one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises worldwide, this criminal enterprise is on pace to surpass the drug trade in less than five years. Yet, as data on the prevalence of human trafficking is fairly new, a lack of awareness here in Ohio mirrors the larger national situation. The fact is human trafficking has been a viable policy issue on the federal level for only the past 10 years.

"Criminals have begun shifting from trafficking narcotics and weapons to trafficking humans;
drugs and guns must be restocked in order to make a profit, whereas a person is seen a renewable asset that can be resold time and time again, multiple times in one night. Often, teenage girls are rotated amongst highway welcome centers, annual events, truck stops, hotels, convention centers, places where there is a large transitory populace and the buyers have anonymity."

("Recommendations to Governor John R. Kasich." Ohio Human
Trafficking Task Force. June 27, 2012) 

Human trafficking does not just involve participants in the shady underworld. Modern day slaves are victimized daily in beauty salons, market places, construction sites, farms, factories, and in our hospitality industry. Human beings are coerced from homes, schools, and streets within the state and
transported into Ohio from out of state and out of country to be enslaved by traffickers, who are blinded by greed.

Those who suffer from drug abuse serve as a smorgasbord of susceptible victims for human traffickers. As dependents and addicts face court, joblessness, rehab, and intervention, many unscrupulous individuals use and abuse them.

Young women are especially at risk as candidates for prostitution and sexual favors. The public tends to place all blame upon these victims while judging them of questionable character and weak will: the truth is that the system itself often places the women in a dangerous whirlwind comprised of equal measures of help and abuse. Victims see few visible options; they sell sex at the hands of an
exploitative and abusive adult as a means of survival.  Prostitution is not just about trading sex for money - but also for drugs, food, shelter, cigarettes, or a ride.

Traffickers mercilessly prey upon the exposed. They often use drugs as a control technique with victims, and victims may also voluntarily use drugs to escape the trauma of their daily lives. For a drug dependent individual, rescue from slavery is extremely difficult. Why? Because once rescued, many victims will require drug and alcohol treatment in order to stabilize and restore their lives.

While drug and alcohol treatment programs exist in Ohio, nearly all have a waiting list and require weeks or months of waiting before a victim can enter. Therefore, without safe, therapeutic housing options, victims are at risk of running or returning to the trafficker during this time.

Law enforcement officers, service providers and first responders need appropriate training and
response tactics to identify victims. Without the proper training many youth and adults will face
continued sexual and physical abuse at the hands of “pimps” and “jailers." Human trafficking
victims have been groomed to fear police and other first responders, hampering their ability to
seek assistance. 

In the Rand Corporation’s Study of Human Trafficking in Ohio, of the Ohio cases reviewed, only one involved the victim’s liberation through the assistance of law enforcement personnel.

(Erin Dalton. “Human Trafficking in Ohio: Market, Responses,
and Considerations.” The Rand Corporation)

Ohio’s law enforcement, first responders, and agency service providers are key in the prevention and
identification of human trafficking victims as the majority of victims are runaways, coming from
abusive and substance abusing families, where in all likelihood the first people to have contact
with them will be someone from the enforcement, regulation, and social service community.

"27 million people are enslaved worldwide.
Ohio ranks fifth in the nation for this underground crime."

--Central Ohio Restore and Rescue Coalition

Click here for the Website of Central Ohio Restore and Rescue: 
http://centralohiorescueandrestore.org/.


Click here for the entire Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force Report:
www.governor.ohio.gov/.../news/OhioHumanTraffickingTaskForceReport.pdf.
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