The epidemic of human trafficking is not just and international or national issue- it is a Columbus, Ohio secret! If you think the women you see walking in the dark are only on Main St., think again. Prostitution is happening in our local high schools, our local colleges and in our suburban neighborhoods. At the Drexel Movie Theater last night the Central Ohio Rescue and Restore (Salvation Army)premiered a moving documentary “Flesh-Bought and Sold in the US” as a testimony to the growing problem of urban community involvement in human trafficking. Depicted were three scenarios: a young mother forced to prostitute herself by her husband and father of her three children, a young woman abducted from her neighborhood and forced into the human trafficking circuit and the young girls walking the local streets. All of these situations are horrifying to imagine as the viewer and even more tragic for the participants. What viewers should take away from the film is how quickly this epidemic is increasing and how it is happening right under our noses each and every day.
One local attendee had the courage to stand up and share how she was “recruited” into the life at the age of 16 by neighbors in her Westerville housing complex. Now over 30 years of age she ‘Just was able to get out of the lifestyle a few years ago.” A clear depiction of how there is no such thing as a “teen prostitute” and that the majority of prostitutes started at a young age and continued with the lifestyle out of shame, fear and a sense of no other options. Many girls are marketed online at Craigslist or Backpage and can be found with risqué pictures and links to reach out to them. This is the launch of their careers as a modern day SLAVE.
Co-Chair of Public Awareness Committee for Central Ohio Rescue and Restore Coalition, Toshia Kimbler sited many startling statistics on her Purpose for Women radio show interview Friday. “The average age of a young girl entering the human trafficking system is 12-14 (years of age). It becomes all she knows.” When asked what needs to be done on a local level to combat this growing problem, Ms. Kimbler encourages local to take an active part in their community by volunteering with street initiatives like S.O.A.P. Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution (Be Free Organization) and the efforts of the CORRC. The mission of CORARC is “…to end human trafficking through public awareness service to trafficked personal, advocacy, and resource and training support to law enforcement.”
To get involved locally you can attend the monthly CORRA Coalition meeting open to the public every first Wednesday of the month from 1pm to 3pm by contacting their office and visiting the website http://www.centralohiorescueandrestore.org/Helping_Out.php for opportunities. There is also the SOAP campaign project sponsored by BE FREE of Dayton. A local Columbus chapter will be launching soon.
Also be vigilant and aware of the signs. This is the best way to support the initiatives to end modern day slavery in America and in Columbus.
Here are a list of RED FLAGS as defined by the U.S. Federal Government on Trafficking Victims for your awareness:
- Evidence of being controlled (ex: rarely alone, seems to be under constant surveillance, isolated from family & friends)
- Bruises and/or fear of speaking for themselves
- Evidence of inability to move or leave a job
- Persistent fear, depression, anxiety or submissive or stupor-like behavior
- Signs of trauma. Untreated illnesses & infections
- No passport or other identifying documentation
- Excessive work hours. Not free to take time off
- Unpaid for work completed or paid very little
- Lives with co-workers and/or employer. No privacy
- Works in the sex trade industry or works off the books in low paying jobs.
Be aware that this is not just an overseas crime. It is active and rampant in Columbus, Ohio and all over the United States. Now that you know…what will you do to support #NoTolerance!
To Report a Tip or Get Help, Call 614-285-4357 (HELP)
If you are not in Ohio, please call the National Hotline: 1-888-3737-888