The movie Taken brought much-needed public awareness to this problem in its portrayal of a teenage girl who is abducted on a trip to Paris, drugged and sold for sex across Europe. America—where young girls are safe from being drugged, raped and forced to sell sex, right? Recent media attention has shined a spotlight on the horrors of human trafficking in the United States. This July, the FBI rescued sex trafficked children in a cross-country sting that targeted pimps who forced these girls into prostitution.
The way we view and respond to these girls is novel. There is a growing realization that the women and girls and sometimes men and boys engaged in selling themselves are often current or former human trafficking victims who should be given supportive services rather than criminals who should be given jail time.
This perspective has spurred increased efforts at both the state and federal levels to rescue and restore human trafficking victims and prosecute criminals who prey on those most vulnerable for their own profit. Federal human trafficking framework: Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age; or 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.
The federal law provides broad protection for minor sex trafficking victims by not requiring proof of force, fraud or coercion in these cases. The law recognizes that minors are particularly vulnerable to manipulation by traffickers and that they cannot consent to being sexually exploited for money. Ohio statutes and cases Ohio has been on the front lines in the battle to combat human trafficking. The study revealed that 35 percent of these women were sex trafficked as minors, and were most often recruited at some point by a female who was also involved in selling herself or who first acted like a friend.
Sixty-three percent of those who were sex trafficked as minors reported having run away one or more times before they were trafficked. This report, though it only covered five Ohio cities, shows that human trafficking is real in Ohio and warns of the risk factors that professionals need to identify to be able to intervene when a minor is at risk of being sex trafficked.
This task force has had great success investigating human trafficking in Toledo and securing long sentences for those who sexually exploit children. Most recently, the task force charged a Toledo woman with interstate sex trafficking after she allegedly transported a minor from Ohio to Michigan in December to engage in commercial sex acts. Task force investigations already have led to the prosecution of at least five traffickers in the central Ohio area.
One case involved four Chillicothe residents who pled guilty to bringing a woman to Columbus and forcing her to have sex with more than a dozen men over a period of a few days. Legislative efforts in Ohio have spurred awareness of human trafficking in the state and have provided tools to prosecute traffickers and provide much-needed services to victims.
Trafficking in persons is defined as to knowingly recruit, lure, entice, isolate, harbor, transport, provide, obtain, or maintain, or knowingly attempt to do any of these things, to a person knowing that the person will be either be: This new statute raised the penalty for trafficking in persons from a second degree to a first degree felony with a mandatory prison term of 10 to 15 years. Additionally, sex traffickers convicted of trafficking in persons are now required to register as sex offenders.
The Safe Harbor Law also provides assistance for human trafficking victims seeking to heal from the trauma of this crime. Some states have passed laws that prohibit arresting a minor for prostitution-related offenses on the basis that the arrest further traumatizes the victim.
The abeyance procedure created by the Safe Harbor Law allows minor human trafficking victims to be held and supervised by the juvenile court until services are provided to address the underlying trauma that often keeps the victim chained to the trafficker long after being rescued. The Safe Harbor Law also contains provisions to assist adult human trafficking victims. Victims of human trafficking now can apply to the court to have their prior solicitation, loitering to engage in solicitation and prostitution records expunged.
Finally, the law authorizes human trafficking victims to file a civil suit against their traffickers and receive compensatory and punitive damages for harm sustained as a result of their victimization. All peace officers now are required to have training in handling trafficking in persons violations as a part of basic peace officer training.
Since the passage of H. New legislation, training efforts, and increased public awareness have resulted in increased human trafficking investigations and prosecutions across the state. Kevin Donaldson was convicted by a jury verdict in Wood County: Other defendants have been arrested and charged with trafficking in persons in Knox, Delaware and Franklin counties, and have been convicted by trial or plea of lesser related charges.
Trafficking in persons cases are particularly ripe for plea bargaining because human trafficking victims are often too afraid to testify against their traffickers, or the victim is unavailable for trial because of an unresolved drug addiction that began as a coping mechanism to deal with the trafficking victimization.
State efforts are leading to the identification of more human trafficking victims and getting stiffer penalties for the traffickers who exploit them. There are many ongoing efforts at the state level further to address human trafficking. The bill is being sponsored by Representative Teresa Fedor, the Legal and Legislative Subcommittee chair, and was introduced on April 16, This legislation will make it easier to target those who recruit minors into sex trafficking by removing the need to prove that the victim was compelled to act.
If passed, this law will make the Ohio Trafficking in Persons law resemble the federal TVPA by recognizing that minors are more easily manipulated by traffickers and cannot consent to commercial sexual activity. The bill also targets johns who purchase sex with minors, makes it easier to terminate the parental rights of parents who traffic their children, and provides greater protections for victim witnesses during the trial. The End Demand Act will further assist law enforcement in arresting and prosecuting those who prey upon our most vulnerable.
As Ohio continues to make great strides in combatting human trafficking, efforts are underway to better understand labor trafficking in Ohio, to continue to prosecute traffickers and johns, and to build a system of services for the victims who are left broken by these traffickers and in need of restoration and healing. The paradigm shift in seeing human trafficking victims as victims and vigorously going after those who exploit them is having an impact that reaches beyond the criminal justice system to benefit the citizens of our state.
Moritz College of Law. Bureau of Investigation, Operation Cross Country: Office, Domestic Sex Trafficking Report 2 Office, Domestic Sex Trafficking Report 4