Human Trafficking is the illegal trade of humans for forced labor trafficking or sexual slavery. It involves the detention, exchange, recruitment, and receipt of persons through force, deception, manipulation, threats, and other means of coercion. The trafficked person is usually placed in a position of vulnerability. The perpetrators typically get their victims to comply with their demands through abuse of power, forced drug intake, the promise of freedom, blackmail, the promise of payment, or fraud.
Human trafficking is a massive problem in the US, with trafficked persons being forced into prostitution, labor without payment, organ donation, and other forms of exploitation. However, some states are worse than others when it comes to numbers. Ohio has caught the nation's eye due to its high human trafficking numbers. Is Ohio bad when it comes to human trafficking? Let's take a closer look at the facts.
Ohio Human Trafficking Statistics
According to the Human Trafficking Institute, Ohio ranked 4th in the entire country regarding human trafficking incidents.
- In 2021, the state had eight new criminal cases related to human trafficking - 5 from the northern district and three from the southern district.
- A total of 22 defendants were identified in these criminal cases
- Currently, the state has 35 active defendants, meaning defendants with pending cases.
- So far, the state has convicted 2 out of 2 defendants for 2020, with the Federal Judge ordering one of the defendants to pay restitution to their victims.
- The two currently convicted defendants received a jail sentence of 209 months on average.
While these numbers show situations wherein the defendant has been brought to justice, let's not forget that more documented cases of human trafficking haven't reached the court. In 2019, there were 450 reported cases of human trafficking in the state of Ohio. The National Human Trafficking Hotline states that around 3,000 children in Ohio are at risk for human trafficking, and about one-third may end up in sexual slavery.
Outside these numbers, there are more instances of human trafficking that go unnoticed simply because a lot of human trafficking victims belong to certain groups in society that don't receive a lot of attention. This includes children from broken homes, prostitutes, immigrants, people of color, people with mental health problems, and the homeless.
Is Ohio Bad When It Comes to Human Trafficking?
Compared to other states, why are Ohio's numbers higher, and does this mean that the state is terrible at handling cases of this nature? Some say that this is both a good and bad thing. But what is it about Ohio that makes it a hotbed for human traffickers?
Scattered Rural and Urban Settlements
Ohio is a large state, and because of its geographical locations, it has vast urban cities and quiet suburban towns. Traffickers can find and recruit victims in Ohio's larger cities before taking them to less populated towns, where they can be well-hidden.
Both Ohio's rural and urban areas have a high demand for human service, which also feeds the human trafficking industry in the state. There are massage parlors, spas, and bars in the urban areas that hire trafficked sex workers. Factories and other establishments need cheap workers who will work under shoddy conditions. In the suburbs, you have farms, ranches, and orchards supplied with workers by forced labor.
Accessibility to Crucial Highways
Five major highways go through Ohio, including one that goes straight north to Canada. This means that Ohio is often a rest stop for trafficking rings transporting victims in and out of the US. This also means that anyone taken in Ohio can be easily moved outside of the state, making it difficult for authorities to follow the perpetrator's tracks.
Ohio's Immigrant Population
In 2018, around 5 percent of Ohio's population was made up of immigrants. If you think that's not a lot, keep in mind that 5 percent is equal to over 500,000 citizens. Most of Ohio's immigrant population comes from Mexico, India, and the Philippines, which are relatively poorer countries compared to the US.
Many immigrants go to the US, hoping for a better life. This is especially true for poorer countries. Trafficking rings take advantage of this mindset by deceiving victims from other countries, promising them stable jobs once they reach the US. Upon arrival, the victim's personal possessions and passport are taken by the traffickers, and they force the victim into sexual slavery or forced labor. The traffickers usually tell the victims that they spent a lot of money to help the victim migrate to the US, and the victim must now pay them back before they can retrieve their passport.
Substandard Foster Care System
Ohio is still lagging behind in terms of a proper foster care system. In the United States, the number of approved foster parents is insufficient to supplement the number of children in the system. This is why the kinship support system was born. Under this system, relatives who pass the government's stringent foster care requirements can care for abused and abandoned children.
Although Ohio has a kinship support system, the allowance paid out to registered relatives is lower compared to foster parents. Because of this, relatives are discouraged from stepping up and providing healthy homes for children in need.
So what happens to these children? The children are not rescued from abusive or neglectful parents, and some get sold to trafficking rings by their parents. Some run away and become victims of trafficking rings.
When High Numbers Are a Good Thing
High human trafficking numbers in Ohio may be disturbing, but authorities say this is a good thing. High numbers mean there are a lot of reported cases in the state. It means that victims are identified, and perpetrators are apprehended. The state does enjoy high conviction rates, which means that most traffickers who are caught are sentenced and jailed.
To be fair, low trafficking numbers don't mean that human trafficking doesn't exist in the area. States with low numbers may simply mean that their authorities are not doing enough to find and identify victims and go after trafficking rings.
What Are the Signs of Human Trafficking?
Several government agencies are working together to bring down trafficking rings across Ohio. As a citizen, you can ensure that victims are identified and suspicious activities are brought to light.
The best thing the public can do is to stay vigilant. Contrary to what you see in the movies, trafficking victims usually don't get grabbed or abducted in dark, shady streets in the middle of the night. More often than not, victims are manipulated, so they go with their abductors willingly in crowded, public areas in the middle of the day.
Also, while some trafficking rings are underground businesses that use trafficking as their primary source of income, perpetrators can come in all shapes and sizes. They can be parents, kin, significant others, and employers.
Here are some of the signs that someone is being trafficked:
- There are signs of physical abuse
- The person is withdrawn and avoids any social interaction
- A child may have stopped attending school for no reason
- The person may have undergone a sudden change in attitude
- The person may have trouble expressing their opinion or feelings, or it feels like they've been coached on what to say
- Someone is always in close proximity to this person or acting possessive towards them
Keep in mind that just because somebody is exhibiting these signs doesn't necessarily mean that they are potential victims of trafficking. Even if they are, their abductors might be close by, so avoid confronting them outright or saving them on your own. Your best bet is to call the proper authorities and give them the details they need so they can investigate.
Anti-Human Trafficking Resources for the Public
Most victims don't seek help from government agencies or law enforcement because they are afraid of incriminating themselves. Keep in mind that most victims are coerced or deceived into forced labor or the sex trade, so they are made to feel like accomplices instead of victims. However, if you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, reach out and seek help from any of the resources below:
Ohio Attorney General's Office (1-800-282-0515)
Attorney General Dave Yost regularly works with the Harriet Tubman Movement to provide shelter and restorative services to all victims of trafficking.
Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force
Report all suspected cases to the Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force by calling 911 or their designated hotline at 888-3737-888. You may also text HELP or INFO to 233733.
Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition
The Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition is a 71-member organization that aims to curb human trafficking cases in Lucas County, Geauga County, Cuyahoga County, Summit County, and others.
Our expert attorneys at Babin Law are continuously working with law enforcement and government agencies to put an end to human trafficking in Ohio. If you are a victim of sex trafficking or forced labor, get in touch with us today for a confidential, obligation-free consultation. If we're able to take on your case, we'll stop at nothing to ensure you get restitution and slowly gain back control over your life.