The concept of being a modern-day slave is unimaginable, the idea of being coerced into performing commercial sex acts without consent being far from most people’s thoughts. However, the fact of the matter is that human sex trafficking is a very real and unfortunate occurrence in everyday life for some people - especially in Ohio, one of the nation’s top states for human trafficking.
According to polarisproject.org, human trafficking is a global phenomenon in which traffickers use forms of coercion such as violence, lies and threats to convince both adults and children to engage in sex acts against their will. Statistics provided by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) show that in 2015, Ohio reported 289 human trafficking cases, 233 of which were sex trafficking.
“[Based on DECA’s research] Ohio is fourth in the country for human trafficking, so the topic really is relevant,” senior Anna Buchy said.
As of Sept. 30 of this year, the number of reported cases of trafficking in Ohio has surpassed that of last year; out of 292 total cases, 217 have involved sex trafficking. While both males and females are susceptible to trafficking, 254 of these cases have had female victims. Another notable statistic is that in 76 of the already-reported trafficking cases, the victim was a minor.
Not only are the state’s sex trafficking numbers some of the highest in the country, but Toledo is ranked fourth- highest in the nation in regards to the number of arrests, investigations and child rescues related to sex trafficking, according to the Ohio Trafficking in Persons Study Commission.
“A majority of people our age, especially girls, don’t even think about [being ‘picked up’ for potential sex trafficking] as a possibility because we live in the ‘Lewis Center bubble’,” Buchy said.
In an effort to inform students and the community about trafficking, the school’s DECA members will be having a forum on Feb. 8, 2017 at 7 p.m. in the theater, according to DECA adviser Chrystal Shanahan. Buchy and fellow seniors Maddie Simonds and Sara Watson are coordinating the event.
We know that it’s out of the school day so there’ll be door prizes and stuff to get people to come because it’s really important that people come up and learn about it,” Simonds said.
Guest speakers will include author Theresa L. Flores, founder of Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution (S.O.A.P.), as well as a deputy from the Delaware County Sheriff’s office, according to Shanahan. Susan Trianfo of Freedom a la Cart, an organization that aims to empower human trafficking survivors, will also be in attendance.
“[Flores] can provide very relevant information with her story, because she was in high school and it happened to her,” Watson said.
At the forum, Flores will share her story as a survivor of human trafficking herself as well as provide information about how to help individuals being subject to human trafficking and how to prevent it in the first place, according to Shanahan. The deputy attending the forum will talk about the legalities of human trafficking and provide Lewis Center/Powell-specific statistics. Trianfo will talk about her organization and how it attempts to help victims post-rescue.
“I know from my perspective, I’m going to be graduating and I’d really like to be informed on signs for knowing human trafficking and preventing it because they’ll be really important,” Buchy said.
All students, staff and parents from the Olentangy community are encouraged to mark their calendars and attend this event.