The Richland County Democratic Women’s Caucus (RCDWC) held their regular meeting Monday evening which featured guest speakers on human trafficking, and an announcement that Mansfield will soon be the site for a home for victims of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC).
Vickie Eichoff, First Vice President of RCDWC announced that Rahab’s Hideaway will soon be opening a home in the Mansfield area for victims of CSEC. Rahab’s Hideaway will provide shelter for runaway youth as well as comprehensive recovery treatment for young girls ages 12-17.
Sandy Sieben and Ashley Wickerham, members of the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition and the Ohio Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Commission Research and Analysis Committee, spoke on the issue of human trafficking in Ohio.
Wickerham defined human trafficking as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion; as well as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.
“Human trafficking is not prostitution,” noted Wickerham, “It is the control and exploitation of another for profit. So, whereas prostitution may be profitable for the individual themselves, it might be at their own will, they may choose to do that; the human trafficking victims do not have a choice. They are forced into it through force, fraud, or coercion by another. They are exploited either in the labor market or the commercial sex industry.”
“We see that it often is happening with runaway youth,” added Sieben, “Which I think may be a little bit of a common trend. When our youth are at risk, or not receiving the support at a young age, there are more risks that come their way in the future. Unfortunately the human trafficking is one that involves more exploitation and can have a lot of negative effects.”
Wickerham noted that both labor and sex trafficking are issues in Ohio, with domestic victims totaling more than 1,078 per year.
Sieben noted that Ohio has instituted House Bill 130, sponsored by Rep. Teresa Fedor, which is also known as the “End Demand Act.”
“It declares human trafficking as an emergency,” said Sieben, adding the bill will also increase the penalty for purchasing sex from a minor from a misdemeanor to a felony, make victims of trafficking eligible for intervention instead of conviction, as well as change the period of time a victim has to report or press charges against their trafficker from 6 years to 20 years.
“What we find is that people are often involved in human trafficking for years and they don’t feel safe or have the resources or the means to talk about it,” added Sieben.
The pair pointed out that many victims of human trafficking do not realize they are being trafficked, but feel their lives are the norm.
“They are groomed by their trafficker that this is normal,” said Wickerham.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline can be reached by dialing 1-888-373-7888 or texting INFO or HELP to BeFree (233733).