Even though it doesn’t constantly make news headlines, human trafficking is one of the most serious problems facing Ohio and the entire United States. Worldwide, it is estimated that there may be as many as 36 million human trafficking victims, forced into prostitution, slavery, and more. Even being forced into gang membership is considered a form of human trafficking.
Children are the most at risk for human trafficking and its associated consequences of sexual abuse, rape, and violence. Vulnerable youth between the ages of 11 and 14 (particularly those who run away from home or are involved in a tough domestic situation) are often lured in with promises of parties and a better life. In other cases, victims are abducted.
The resultant lifestyle is nothing more than a tragedy. Children are forced into unpaid domestic labor or prostitution. Many are physically and emotionally abused, with little hope of escape.
Simply understanding that human trafficking is a very real problem in Ohio and elsewhere is a crucial first step to putting a stop to this criminal practice. Be aware of the signs of human trafficking, such as a young, fearful person with an older male who refuses to let them speak for themselves. Be especially alert for signs of physical or sexual abuse. Helping even one victim or at-risk individual could prevent a lifetime of despair and abuse.