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Human Trafficking in Ohio

The sexual exploitation of children is undoubtedly deplorable. Yet, we must acknowledge that it is not just the low-lifes of society that are committing these atrocities. Respected members of society commit these lurid acts, and Ohio is not exempt from these indecencies.

Several schemes involving the wretched world of child trafficking have recently been exposed. A scandal involving children being exploited under the “erotic” section of Craigslist was recently uncovered and resulted in police involvement while interviews and reports of child trafficking in Ohio have prompted outrage.

“Backpage,” a popular website devoted to ads for sex, accounts for about 70% of the nation’s prostitution ads. The site’s owners have attempted to help police in removing ads for underage girls, but the problems continue to be rampant.

A report released by the state Human Trafficking Commission detailed the interviews of 328 victims from Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Toledo. Officials sought to understand sex trafficking through these reports, which revealed many harrowing details.

Approximately 35% of those interviewed had been coerced into the sex trade before the age of 18, and about 12% were sold under the age of 12. In Columbus, 44% of the victims interviewed had been enslaved before the age of 18. The victims cited were forced into the trade and stated rape and poverty are the largest factors. Another component often cited by victims is having a much older boyfriend, who introduced them to the trade. 63% of those interviewed had been recruited after running away from home.

According to the report, the majority of girls were enlisted by other women, who become friendly with the victims–who would lure them into these situations by acting as their soul mates–and then subjugate them. Most victims are runaways who were sexually abused at home, and they are vulnerable and desperate for a relationship or for a sense of belonging.

The prostitutes are not the criminals-they are the victims.They are often working under coercion, and while not often physically constrained, threats of violence from pimps and fear of death can keep them entrenched in trafficking. Most prostitutes are unable to reach out to police, as they fear detainment and jail time for a crime of which they are the targets.

A report by the Ohio Attorney General states that 1,000 American children are constrained into the sex trade in Ohio each year. The government is employing many measures to eradicate the trade, and as of 2012, 40 laws have been passed regarding sex trafficking.

Between 14,500 and 17,500 victims are exploited and trafficked into the United States each year.

The trade is highly rampant and transparent but currently unable to control, as victims cannot cooperate with police. The “johns,” or those people who use the prostitues, are far more visible and, therefore, garner much less police interest. If the demand is halted, the system can be stopped, but this paradigm is rarely employed.

The problem’s entirety must be exposed, as often only the pimps and the victims are addressed. Both the traffickers and customers fuel this racket, and if both are eliminated, this monstrosity can be impeded.

Written by Claire Glass’15

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