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Human Trafficking: Combating Ohio's Dark Underbelly

In Ohio, 375 human trafficking cases were reported in 2016. (Kiran Foster/Flickr)
In Ohio, 375 human trafficking cases were reported in 2016. (Kiran Foster/Flickr)
January 11, 2018

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Human trafficking is considered the fastest growing crime, and advocates in Ohio say they are more committed than ever to ending it.

Ohio ranks fourth among states for calls made to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, with 375 trafficking cases reported in 2016.

State Rep. Teresa Fedor has worked for years to shed light on the problem, which she sees as the human rights issue of our lifetime.

Because human trafficking occurs behind closed doors, she says better awareness and understanding are important.

"It's through education, period, that we begin to see the underbelly of what's really happening in the dark corners of our culture,” she states. “And I believe it could be this generation that says, 'Enough.'"

Fedor is co-hosting the ninth annual Human Trafficking Day of Awareness at the Statehouse on Thursday.

Survivors of human trafficking will be on hand to share their stories with hundreds of people from law enforcement, the justice system, educational institutions, social service agencies and other advocacy organizations.

Fedor notes there are many factors that make human trafficking a pervasive problem.

"The lack of education, the lack of jobs, our laws not being current to address this, policies not addressing homelessness, mental health, child abuse and all those issues that challenge our culture to do the right thing in raising our children and having a safe community," she explains.

Fedor says the Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force has engaged almost every aspect of government on the issue to ensure victims and survivors receive support and that offenders are brought to justice.

She adds that understanding that victims are not criminals has been key in their work.

"It's so important to make sure that we have the adequate laws in place to fight this,” Fedor stresses. “And I have another bill – House Bill 461 will increase the penalties for traffickers who traffic 16 and 17-year-olds, and basically it mirrors the federal level."

Friday, hundreds of students will attend the second annual Human Trafficking Youth Prevention Summit at the Statehouse.

This collaboration is produced in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded by the George Gund Foundation.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH