Often forced into prostitution, Ohio’s sex and human trafficking victims are better served by current state laws, but there still is work to be done. Each year in Ohio, more than 1,000 children are trafficked in the sex trade and more than 3,000 youth are at risk of becoming victims, according to Governor John Kasich’s office.
Ohio’s Safe Harbor Bill, which Kasich signed in June, stiffened penalties for individual convicted of human trafficking — now a mandatory 10 years in prison — and opened up resources for victims. The law requires police officers to complete training in identifying human trafficking, authorizes victims to sue their pimps for damages, and funnels money collected from fines and property seizures into a fund for those who were abused. The legislation designated individuals being trafficked as victims instead of sexual offenders, and that opened up diversion programs and funds. Legislation also allowed victims to have previous prostitution convictions removed from their record. The changes prompted the Polaris Project, a nonprofit group that fights human trafficking, to bump Ohio to its top tier, ranking the state one of its most improved in 2012.
However, even with these improvements, Ohio still received a “C” from Shared Hope International, which assesses states’ response to child sex trafficking. Shared Hope says that Ohio law should be changed to distinguish between child and adult victims of sex trafficking and impose a stiffer penalty for the sex trade of minors. Ohio should change its policies to mimic federal law and shield juveniles from testifying about their sex lives at their traffickers trials. Other proposed changes include lengthening the statute of limitations on these cases from six years to 20 years to match other sex abuse cases, imposing stricter penalties for johns, and making it easier for social workers to remove children from homes if their parents trafficked them.
Learn more at Jessie Balmert’s Lancaster Eagle Gazette article: Ohio laws become stricter on human trafficking.