Ohio’s best efforts to curb sex trafficking are running into a big stumbling block — men. “If men don’t stop buying sex with girls, the problem continues,” Vern Smith of Defenders USA said. “It’s a demand-driven market. If you don’t have the demand, the market falls apart.”
Despite passage of increasingly restrictive anti-human-trafficking laws and awareness campaigns championed by Governor John Kasich, Attorney General Mike DeWine and the State Highway Patrol, men continue paying for sex in huge numbers.
Smith and Nick Lembo, co-chairmen of the Defenders, a branch of Shared Hope International, said men must be educated and involved if the sex-trafficking business is to be tamed.
Founded in 2006, the Defenders urge men to oppose “all forms of commercial sex … including pornography, prostitution, strip clubs, escort services and massage parlors.” “We’re out to show this is not the oldest profession,” Lembo said. “It’s the oldest oppression, a form of slavery.”
“We may not want to admit it — it’s almost too horrific to imagine — but the fact is that human trafficking is real and is happening across Ohio,” the governor said in a statement. “Over the past two years, we’ve improved our laws to fight trafficking and begin getting victims the help they need, but we must do more.”
Among the outreach efforts: the Ohio Turnpike commission will put up posters in 14 service plazas; the Department of Public Safety will distribute 5,000 posters; the Department of Youth Services and Department of Rehabilitation and Correction will post materials in youth and adult prisons; the Department of Health has made materials available in all sexually transmitted disease clinics; and the State Library of Ohio will distribute posters to 732 libraries in the state.
Trafficking victims and those with information about trafficking can call a toll-free hot line, 1-888-373-7888, or text BeFree to #233733.
Learn more at Alan Johnson’s The Columbus Dispatch article: Men who perpetuate sex trade are target in human-trafficking fight.