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Slavery still widespread in the 21st century
Toledo rated fourth largest city for human trafficking according to T.I.P.

JULY 12, 2010

Rosita Curry, just 19, was cold, hungry and homeless on a cold April night on Hudson Street. With nowhere warm to go, her left leg had gone numb from the cold. After seven years of living on the streets, Curry was mentally and physically shutting down. Curry had been selling her body in order to feed her insatiable need for drugs. Her abusive pimps provided the drugs and a cardboard box where she could get occasional sleep.

The Columbus Dispatch reported the story on Curry in June, 2010. 15 months after that disparaging April night, Curry left the streets for good. Now, Curry is walking across the stage of Columbus State Community College graduating as valedictorian of her high-school class.

Unfortunately Curry’s story is one of many plaguing the youth of Ohio.
The Trafficking in Persons Study Commission (T.I.P) recently completed its tenth installment on sex and labor trafficking in the United States and abroad. The 2010 report ranks Toledo as number four in the nation in terms of the number of arrests, investigations, and rescues of domestic-minor sex-trafficking victims among U.S. cities. Miami ranks first, then Portland and Las Vegas comes in third. Ohio reported 1,078 victims under the age of 18 last year. An additional l ,783 foreign-born persons were forced into either sex or labor trafficking in Ohio last year.

You may ask yourself, how is this possible when Toledo, a small city in comparison to other large cities such as Chicago, is at the center of human trafficking? According to T.I.P, Ohio’s proximity to the Canadian border makes it possible for victims to travel through various states including the high crime state, Michigan, and be trafficked in various locations throughout Ohio. Its farmlands demand cheap labor and weak laws on human trafficking all play a role in this trend, said the report.

The ease of domestic-minor-sex-trafficking in Ohio is due to a large population of homeless youth. According to the 2009 National Center on Family Homelessness State Report Card, Ohio is ranked twentieth among the 50 states for child homelessness. Of the domestic population, the poor are most vulnerable to being trafficked. According to the T.I.P study, Ohio’s population grew a total of 1.2 percent while the number of people living in poverty rose to over 40 percent.

According to the report, poverty limits access to resources and information and sometimes an education. Those living in poverty often feel they must risk their safety in order to survive. Children living in poverty and coming from sexually or physically abusive homes, or both, are likely to endure prostitution and coercion into trafficking because of their need for food and shelter and their dependency on adults.

Since the news of Ohio’s ranking in human trafficking broke, Columbus and Toledo have sounded the alarm. Currently, the police force is receiving specialized training to better recognize the signs of a trafficked person.

Several attempts were made to contact chief of police at the Toledo Police Department and the FBI but no response was given.

Shelters, such as Gracehaven and the Salvation Army, specialize in human trafficking victims. Homeless shelters will take in trafficked persons. However, the trafficked person’s safety is at risk in a homeless shelter due to the ease of accessing those within the shelter.

Ohio representatives are working diligently to change the law in Ohio. As of now, human trafficking laws in Ohio hardly exist. Human trafficking is not a stand-alone charge on the books. However, Ohio representatives are working to pass a new law which will crack down on human traffickers.

For now, Curry and many like her are still at risk. For more information about human trafficking and to learn more about what you can do to help, log onto: PolarisProject.org or Gracehavenhouse.org.