Zonta is an international organization that empowers women and girls by improving educational opportunities and working to put an end to human trafficking and domestic violence. The days between November 25— The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women— and December 10— Human Rights Day— are observed by Zontians during a campaign, 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.
The campaign brings attention to the ongoing plague of human trafficking, recruiting, harboring, transporting or obtaining a person for a commercial sex act, or for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion. It can include confinement, engaging a person in a romantic relationship, or controlling their children.
Unfortunately, Ohio and southern Michigan are one of the busiest areas in the United States for human trafficking. Consider the network of interstate and international roadways and ports in this area and you can imagine why this is the case.
Last year, in Ohio, The Polaris Project estimated that at any given time 1,100 children are being trafficked with another 3,000 at risk. According to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, the most common age for youth to fall victim to trafficking in Ohio was 13 years old; 49% were under 18. These victims can become agricultural migrant workers or work in sweatshops. They might end up as prostitutes, forced to participate in pornography, or to work in strip clubs.
About the victims
The majority of victims are female, but they also include males. Many are runaways who are lured by someone who appears to care about them and offers help. Some are sold by their own families who then use the money “earned” for their own needs. This is often a victim’s first introduction to the use of street drugs like heroin, as the captors use it to control the victim. Rescuing a victim is hindered by the fear of angering their captor due to threats of retribution or the withholding of the drugs that they become addicted to.
Human trafficking is modern-day slavery. Learn to keep your eyes open to any situation that seems odd. Do workers seem to be very young? Does it appear that employees are fearful? Does someone seem to be intimidated by those they are with? If you feel that there is anything amiss, contact local law enforcement or the National Trafficking Hotline at 888-3737-888. A life could depend upon it.
Help support the ongoing fight to end modern-day slavery by joining Zontians during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence campaign.