Ohio ranks 5th (worst) in the U.S. for human trafficking. Over 88% of human trafficking in Ohio is for sex. About 84% of victims are U.S. citizens. Approximately 80% of victims are women or girls, and 50% are children. 13 years is the most common age of entry into sex trafficking.
Entry is only the beginning of their problems. These children grow into adults—or rather, their bodies do. Emotional maturity and life skills remain as they were at the age of entry. Other problems may include drug and/or alcohol addiction, medical issues, mental health disorders such as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) as well as Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) from repeated beatings, lack of education, homelessness, and family and child welfare dependencies, to name just a few.
Policy about this problem should address the before-during-after cycle of sex trafficking.
“Before” programs are educational in nature. The goal is to prevent sex trafficking through education and awareness: teaching our communities what sex trafficking really is, what it looks like in the community (internet vs. street for instance), and how to avoid falling for the lure. Our children must learn how to protect themselves from vulnerabilities and the recruitment process.
Policy for reaching victims “during” (or while being trafficked) again can be accomplished in large part by nonprofits offering rehabilitation programs. Working together, state and local non-profits can design specific treatment and outreach to victims in their communities. The final stage of policy needed concerns “aftercare.”
There is no quick fix. We have the opportunity to get in front of this problem—to stop it in its tracks and be a model for the rest of the country. We have an obligation to protect one of our greatest assets in this state, our children.
Or we can keep doing what we’re doing—sticking our fingers in the dam’s holes, watching as the number of sex-trafficked children in our state grows.
Learn more at the Ohio Conservative Review article: Practical Policy to Prevent Sex Trafficking and Heal Ohio’s Victims.