By Emily O’Connor, Senior Staff Writer
Ohio is one of the largest states for human trafficking reports, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC).
The NHTRC Annual Report for 2015 showed that of the 19,547 calls to report trafficking, 809 came from Ohio. This makes Ohio fifth on the list for reported calls nationwide.
Sgt. Jon Varley of the Oxford Police Department said Oxford has not had any human trafficking cases to date.
However, Butler County is still under the supervision of two nearby non-profit organizations to help fight against slavery and trafficking: Abolition Ohio, out of Dayton, and End Slavery, out of Cincinnati.
Kelli Johnson, an English professor on the Miami Hamilton campus, began teaching a course several years ago that educates college students about the dangers, myths and forms of human trafficking. She said sex trafficking is often the only form of human trafficking people consider.
“But Ohio has a lot of victims of labor trafficking, specifically agricultural because of the abundance of farms,” Johnson said.
Students enrolled in the course focus on human trafficking data: the number of victims, area where the crime is most prominent and most popular forms of trafficking.
“It is a hidden crime,” said Johnson. “It is really difficult to count the victims.”
The course also touches on the myths and representations of the crime. To really understand trafficking, Johnson said people must get away from movie portrayals of it and focus on the real life crime that is committed.
Senior Catherine Lok, former president of the International Justice Mission club, said Ohio is ranked so high because of the extensive highway system, its border to Lake Erie and a history of poverty.
Lok said although she has worked with the issue for years, she has never seen a case of trafficking near here — but that doesn’t
mean it’s not possible.
“Statistically, it has to happen,” she said.
Since May 2012, the Anti-Human Trafficking program of the Salvation Army of Greater Cincinnati has served over 400 individuals through case management, outreach and crisis intervention in the Southwest Ohio area.
Bhumika Patel works for End Slavery Cincinnati and said his organization’s 24-hour hotline receives about 50 to 60 calls every month.
Johnson said Ohio has been slow to get on board with the fight against trafficking. There was no law against the crime until 2011. Before then, she said, trafficking would’ve been called, simply, “kidnapping.”
Many who fight against human trafficking say the media is an issue when trying to galvanize support.
“Due to the dominant media representation of a pretty and young girl being trapped and sold, sex is the only trafficking people look for,” said Johnson.
While female sex trafficking tends to dominate media coverage, 45 percent of the 21 million people who are trafficked annually are male. However, females do make up almost all sex trafficking victims, according to the International Labour Organization.
Lok said most trafficking is much more complex than people realize, and many people misunderstand it.
“The movies portray a vulnerable girl who is taken,” said Lok.
When really, she said, human trafficking could happen to anyone.