SIDNEY — Raven Loaiza, rape crisis regional coordinator for Crime Victim Services, affiliated with the Northwest Ohio Rescue and Restore Coalition, presented a program about human trafficking to the Sidney Kiwanis Club recently.
Loaiza is a bilingual sexual assault and human trafficking advocate.
The coalition’s mission is to end sexual and labor trafficking by enhancing public education, survivor recovery and justice response. January is Human Trafficking Awareness month and Loaiza remarks centered on this topic.
“What is human trafficking?” she asked, rhetorically. It is a form of modern-day slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others. Victims are forced, defrauded or coerced into trafficking. Even if victims initially offer consent, that consent is rendered meaningless by the actions of the traffickers to exploit them for labor, services or commercial sex.
Victims fall into two distinct groups: international and domestic. These two groups are further divided into sex and labor victims. For a crime to be committed, three conditions must be met: act, means and purpose. An example of the act is the transporting or harboring of the victims. Means take the form of force or fraud. Purpose is for sexual or labor exploitation.
Types of labor exploitation are domestic servitude in the home, migrant workers in agriculture, child soldiers, restaurant workers and nail salons/massage parlors. Sexual exploitation includes prostitution, pornography, stripping, lap dancing, mail-order brides and child brides.
Human trafficking makes a profit of $150 billion globally per year.
“It is more than Google, Starbucks and Nike combined,” said Loaiza. “There are 37 million victims globally.”
In Ohio, there are more than 3,000 children sexually exploited. In addition, another 3,000 runaway children are at risk of being trafficked. More than 18,000 children are reported missing.
Several things make the state of Ohio attractive for trafficking: It has an extensive highway system. It has the most truck stops in the nation. There are a number of major sporting events and has a sharply rising immigrant population.
Drugs play a large part in trafficking. Addicts are extremely vulnerable. Addiction fuels human trafficking and drugs are used as bait to lure potential victims. Children are at risk of exploitation by parents and caregivers who are addicted to drugs.
How do people become victims of human trafficking? There are several ways and one of them is through force. This would include the use of beatings, confinement and rape. Next is fraud through false offers. Finally there are threats of serious harm. This is considered coercion.
Who are traffickers? They are masters of the art of seduction. They may use torture tactics to control their victims and their behavior includes both physical and psychological torture. Traffickers do not fit all of the stereotypes. They blend in with the general public and may live next door.
Loaiza concluded her remarks with asking, “What can you do?” First, know the signs. Next, raise awareness by telling others. Finally, get involved.