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September 26, 2013

Human trafficking is subject of educational event at CSU

By Travis Raymond

The Omega chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority hosted an educational event Wednesday evening in Main Classroom to raise awareness about human trafficking within the state of Ohio.

Angi Lee, one of the governor’s assistant policy directors, was scheduled to speak at the event but was forced to cancel due to illness.

Judge Michelle EarleyFilling in for Lee, Judge Michelle Earley of the Cleveland Municipal Court addressed the state’s earliest statistics regarding human trafficking prosecutions, released after the passage of Ohio’s Safe Harbor Law last year.

In effect since June of 2012, the Safe Harbor Law allows for stiffer penalties on human traffickers. More importantly, the law also protects the victims of human trafficking by requiring that police officers receive training to identify when the crime is taking place and directing that Ohio juvenile courts will not seek prosecutions in instances of coercion.

The new law also calls for increased reporting by requiring the Ohio attorney general's office to publish yearly statistics on human trafficking cases in the state.

“To date, there have only been 15 arrests thus far and 13 convictions [for human trafficking],” Earley said. “The common question is: if it is such a problem, why are the numbers so low? The numbers are so low because we’ve just been reporting for only a year. In addition to that, there are still law enforcement agencies that are charging these cases of human trafficking as promoting prostitution.”

In addition to hearing Earley’s insights, the audience was shown two short documentaries about human trafficking, but only after a warning about the videos’ graphic content.

A short Q-and-A session followed, and participants were advised on how to identify indicators of human trafficking in their day-to-day lives.

The most salient piece of advice was simple: be aware of your surroundings.

Awareness would prove to be a guiding principle throughout the evening to be epitomized by Renecia McMillian, Omega chapter president, at the evening’s close when she concluded, “now we do the action and spread the word to everyone else.”

Founded in 1908, Alpha Kappa Alpha is an international sorority and includes human trafficking among its signature program initiatives.