LISBON - We want to believe that everyone goes to sleep in a comfortable bed under a secure roof with enough to eat everyday. We want to believe that because we have those things everyone else does, too. This isn't an article about homelessness, though that is a concern worthy of an article. This article is about human bondage: Human trafficking. If you think that is something that doesn't happen close to home, you are about to receive some enlightenment.
This year, in June, Ohio took two significant steps to end human trafficking in our state. 1.) The Ohio Human Trafficking Act of 2012 became law. 2.) The Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force created by executive order of the governor in March released it's recommendations.
First, what is human trafficking? Here are a few facts from The Ohio Council of Behavioral Health and Family Services Providers.
Salem Buckeye Elementary School secretary Michelle Bowers and new principal John Lundin pose outside the school on Buckeye Avenue, ready to welcome students for a new year of learning. (Salem News photo by Mary Ann Greier)
In Ohio, 88 percent of human trafficking involves sex slaver.
84 percent of victims in our state are American born.
Children who have been sexually abused, often by a family member, a family friend or other acquaintances are at higher risk for running away from home.
Past sexual abuse makes children especially vulnerable to traffickers who make them feel safe in exchange for sex but go on to abuse and traffic them.
Teens involved in illegal activities are blackmailed by traffickers in an escalating spiral they don't know how to get out of.
90 percent of runaway children become involved with the commercial sex industry.
In central Ohio, 88 percent of human trafficking involves sex slavery, 75 percent are female and 84 percent are American-born citizens.
Dr. Celia Williamson of University of Toledo, a national authority on this topic, found that 91 percent of girls who were trafficked experienced some form of abuse at home. Seventy-seven percent who were trafficked as young girls continued into adult prostitution unless they were rescued and the same number had been involved with county children's services. Also, 64 percent were previously living in a home where one or both parents abused drugs.
Human trafficking is not, however, limited to sex slavery. Forced marriages, bonded labor markets (sweat shops, agricultural plantations, domestic service, et al) are also involved, says Humantrafficking.org. "Poverty and lack of economic opportunity make women and children victims of t raffickers."
In 2007 the U.S. Department of State reported that 14,500 to 17,500 people, mostly women and children, are imported to the U.S. annually. The State Department began monitoring human trafficking in 1994 when the agency began to report on human rights practices.
The U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), under the Department of Homeland Security, advises that "Victims often find themselves in a foreign country and cannot speak the language. Traffickers frequently take away the victims travel and identity documents, telling them that if they attempt to escape, the victims or their families back home will be harmed, or the victim's families will assume the debt.
"We recognize that men, women and children that are encountered in brothels, sweat shops, massage parlors, agricultural fields and other labor markets may be forced or coerced into those situations and potentially are traffic victims."
Ohio's human trafficking problem is growing. Public awareness is important. It isn't "just" the victim's problem. It is a community issue. It's everyone's business.
This message is brought to you by Family Recovery Center. FRC promotes the well-being of individuals, families and communities with education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and other mental health issues. For more information about this topic or our programs, contact us at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468 or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org. FRC is funded, in part, by United Way of Northern Columbiana County and ODADAS (Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services.