When most Americans think of slavery, it’s likely that their minds’ focus immediately goes to the infamous transatlantic slave trade of the 18th century. Over the course of 260 years, slave traders forcibly removed 24 million people from their homes in Africa to live out the rest of their lives in slavery. Today, we acknowledge slavery as a dark part of our country’s past, vowing to not let the atrocities of slavery be repeated. But the harsh truth is that a different kind of slavery, human trafficking, still exists around the world, in the U.S., and even here in Ohio.
Robin McNeal, teen advocate at Turning Point in Marion, lists human trafficking as one of the issues she is most passionate about. Part of Robin’s job as teen advocate is traveling to local middle and high schools to talk to teens about healthy and safe relationships. In her presentation, she defines human trafficking as “the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or sexual act.”
According to the International Labor Organization’s (I.L.O.) most recent report, more than 40 million people were victims of human trafficking in 2016. Among these 40 million, 25 percent were children under the age of 18, and 71 percent were women. Robin also mentions that human trafficking is the world’s second-largest criminal enterprise, just behind drug trafficking. The I.L.O. estimates the annual profits of human trafficking worldwide to be roughly $150 billion. The numbers are obviously appalling, but for many, human trafficking still seems like a far-away issue. Unfortunately, this is simply not the case.
The Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force’s 2017 report states that Ohio is ranked No. 4 in the United States for reported human trafficking cases. As the task force notes, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Ohio has the fourth-largest human trafficking problem because only reported cases can be accounted for. Nevertheless, human trafficking is a significant presence in our state. Last year, the Ohio Human Trafficking Commission (headed by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine) reported 208 potential victims of human trafficking statewide. Although initiatives like the Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force, the Ohio Human Trafficking Commission, and the Ohio Network of Anti-Human Trafficking Coalitions have made notable strides in putting an end to human trafficking, DeWine says there is still more work to be done.
DeWine’s office implemented a law enforcement training program to teach officers ways to identify runaway youth who are at-risk of being victims of human trafficking. As a result of this program, 146 juveniles were identified as being high-risk for human trafficking. DeWine believes that this program is a step in the right direction and hopes to implement more specialized law enforcement training in the future.
Robin McNeal says that preventative initiatives like this one are especially important in the fight against human trafficking. Juveniles are often a trafficker’s target age for victims, which is why Robin includes information on human trafficking in her presentation for middle and high school students.
Just as it does every year, the recent Super Bowl brought considerable media attention to human trafficking. It has become a fairly widespread idea that the Super Bowl’s host city becomes a sort of mega-hub for human trafficking in the weeks surrounding the event. While research does show a spike in human trafficking reports and arrests during the Super Bowl, this is not an effect that exists only with the NFL’s championship game.
Lauren Martin, who is nationally recognized for her work and research in the area of human trafficking, says that making this association can actually be somewhat harmful as it detracts from the fact that this is an issue that affects victims 365 days a year and not only during the Super Bowl. A recent report by Reuters points out that anytime a major event (especially sporting events and other events promoting a “party atmosphere”) takes place, human trafficking numbers are likely to rise. A close to home example is Columbus’s own Arnold Sports Festival. The Arnold attracts over 50,000 attendees annually, and each year anti-trafficking groups team up with law enforcement to anticipate this spike.
Human trafficking is clearly a dark and dangerous presence, and the fact that it’s happening in our own backyard is irrefutably terrifying. Of course, there is always hope. Aside from the initiatives previously listed, there are many national and local organizations working to prevent human trafficking and offer assistance to victims.
The SWITCH National Anti-Human Trafficking Network and the Central Ohio Rescue and Restore Coalition are two Columbus-based organizations that focus on raising awareness for human trafficking and providing support to victims as they work toward recovery.
One of central Ohio’s more specialized and unique organizations is Survivor’s Ink; a grassroots project that pays for victims to have scars or branding tattoos (left by a trafficker) removed or covered. She Has a Name Cleaning Services and Freedom a la Cart Catering Service are two businesses that offer employment and support to victims as they re-enter the workforce. Another unique initiative is the S.O.A.P. Project. S.O.A.P. is an organization that places bars of soap labeled with the human trafficking hotline number in places that are likely to be used as trafficking sites (mostly in hotel and motel bathrooms). In addition to the millions of bars of soap they distribute, S.O.A.P. offers training to hotel employees to help them identify victims. S.O.A.P. outreach is often scheduled around large events to help combat the increase in human trafficking numbers. In fact, the organization works to “S.O.A.P. Up the Arnold” in Columbus each year.
Anyone can help fight human trafficking. The most important thing an individual can do is knowing how to identify the signs. Potential signifiers to look for include visible signs of physical abuse, lack of personal belongings, homelessness, a tattoo or branding of a potential trafficker’s name, a teen dating a much older partner, evidence of drug use, the individual does not have access to his/her finances and personal documents, the individual is unaware of their current location, or the individual appears anxious and unable to make eye contact. Human traffickers often seek out victims in places that are busy and public such as school campuses, malls, bus stops, parties, and other social hangouts. In addition to knowing the indicators, if you would like to volunteer to help put an end to human trafficking, visit www.endslaverynow.org/act/volunteer to find volunteer opportunities near you.
If you notice red flags of human trafficking in an individual or if you are a victim of human trafficking, please call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s 24-Hour Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. There is always help, and there is always hope
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By Paula Roller – Guest Columnist/Executive Director of Turning Point
Dating violence is the most prevalent type of youth violence, with 1 in 3 adolescents reporting victimization. Close to 1.5 million high school students across the nation have experienced physical abuse in a relationship. Physical violence is common, with 1 in 10 high school students disclosing they have been purposefully physically abused by a dating partner.
Ever-developing technologies can make this dating violence more pervasive and more hidden. Young victims will seldom disclose their abuse to caregivers, and can often feel isolated and/or ashamed of the situation.
Victims of dating violence are more likely to experience:
• Symptoms of depression and anxiety.
• Engagement in unhealthy behaviors, such as substance abuse, eating disorders, or risky sexual behavior.
• Suicidal thoughts.
Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month was developed to shed light on abuse in teen and young adult relationships. “Hands Unite: Do your Part” is the theme this year, developed by LoveIsRespect.org; inspiring young people to not use their hands for dating violence, but instead to construct healthy dating relationships.
Turning Point sees the necessity for this awareness, as we have long been aware that dating violence is a precursor to a life of domestic violence. By giving teens the tools they need to recognize the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships, we can protect our youth from the fear and heartbreak of violent and coercive relationships.
Our Teen Advocacy program is committed to providing training that works with youth to prevent unhealthy relationships. Robin McNeal is our teen advocate who has developed presentations that help students recognize the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships, warning signs of an abuser, signs that you or someone you know is in a dangerous relationship, keys to healthy relationships, and safety planning. She can also offer some insight to educators regarding the issues of teen dating violence. For more information, please contact Robin McNeal.
Turning Point offers a 24-hour hotline for victims of domestic violence. If you or someone you know needs help or if you would like more information, please call 800-232-6505 or 740-382-8988.
Turning Point is a non-profit agency. Funding comes for a variety of sources including the United Way and the Delaware/Morrow Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.
Paula Roller is the Executive Director at Turning Point.
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The international march against sexual assault and domestic violence. A playful opportunity to raise awareness in our community about the serious causes, effects and remediations to violence against women. Where MEN are asked to wear WOMEN’S heels as a sign of their commitment to a safer community. Just as victims of sexual assault and domestic violence endure pain and embarassment, we are asking YOU to put yourself in their shoes and Walk the Walk! All are welcome. This is a FREE event in conjunction with Marysville Uptown Friday Night Scott’s 150th Anniversary Celebration. Registration at 6p, walk starts promptly at 7p. Donations accepted to benefit Turning Point Domestic Violence Shelter.
The 10th Annual Walk-A-Mile-In-Her-Shoes event will be Friday, May 4, 2018. This will take place during First Friday celebrations in Delaware! The walk is free. It is family friendly, and there will be many activities and things to see like law enforcement vehicles, music, and even snacks from the Citizens Police Academy! The event raises awareness about sexualized violence. It is a chance for the community to come together and say that everyone deserves to be in a healthy relationship. Information about services to help those experiencing any type of abuse will be highlighted for those interested in reaching out.
Law enforcement officers across Delaware County respond to multiple domestic violence calls every day. Sheriff Russ Martin reports that calls to domestic incidents are second only to theft offenses.
Because of the private nature of domestic violence, it is believed to be woefully underreported. Unfortunately, Delaware County remains the largest county in Ohio without a domestic violence shelter. That must end!
When a very public tragedy occurs, Americans tend to respond with speed and generosity. But the tragedies that happen due to domestic violence are not often public, so we as a community remain unaware.
As a resident of Delaware County, I know our community would pull together and make a miracle happen if they were aware of this quiet threat and knew what they could do.
There is an outstanding domestic violence shelter in Marion county called Turning Point, which for decades has quietly and effectively served the surrounding six counties, including Delaware County. Unfortunately, the population growth in our area has made it very difficult for one facility to adequately manage the great need.
The leadership of Turning Point, along with Delaware County community leaders, have determined there is an immediate need to build a domestic violence shelter in Delaware County.
As a first step, many groups and individuals have committed to raising the needed $3.1 million.
Recently, the Nationwide Foundation made a $400,000 grant to Turning Point for this new shelter. This grant, coupled with donations from other groups (United Way of Delaware County, Women’s Leadership Network) and individuals has put us on a path to success.
Recently, my wife and I visited Turning Point in Marion and witnessed first hand the tragedy that is quietly all around us. The trauma impacts not only the victims, but also their children.
We saw people who have no hope who find hope at Turning Point. We saw how individuals and small businesses can come together as volunteers and create a shelter that helps put people’s lives back together.
We saw dedicated staff and counselors work for much less money than they could make elsewhere because they care.
It’s time we bring domestic violence out of the shadows and turn whispers into shouts. No one should live in fear in our county. We need to speak out against domestic violence and sex trafficking. We must not relegate these victims to the darkness.
I’m asking every citizen in our county to speak out against domestic violence, watch out for domestic violence, report it, and reach out to Turning Point. Let’s build and sustain a shelter right here in Delaware County.
The land is bought, the buildings are ready for renovation, so all we need is you. It’s time to say “Not in our county!”
For information about the shelter, visit http://turningpoint6.org/delaware-shelter/ or look up Turning Point Marion Ohio and click on Delaware Shelter Campaign.
Mark Pizzi Is President and COO at Nationwide Insurance and a resident of Delaware County.
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Turning Point | PO Box 875 | Marion, OH 43301-0875 | 740-382-8988