Stopping Human Trafficking In Ohio An Ongoing Battle
By Rep. Andy Thompson (R-Marietta)
August 21, 2013
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The abundance of human trafficking violations in Ohio is surprising in some ways, and not so surprising in others. Ohio is a transportation and commercial hub for many things, both legal and illegal. In the past year, there were 30 cases of domestic sex trafficking reported, involving 38 victims and 21 traffickers, according to a report issued in June by Attorney General Mike DeWine.

A report from a couple years ago by the Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Commission revealed that about half of all victims were younger than 18 when they were first trafficked, some even as young as 13.

Over the past couple years, the Ohio House has passed a couple pieces of legislation aimed at increasing the penalties on human sex traffickers and, above all, reducing the number of times the crime is committed. I think an important first step in the effort to end these heinous human rights violations is to make people aware of the problem. Most people, upon hearing about human trafficking, probably think of it as taking place in foreign countries. Sadly, it is happening here at home as well.

The latest legislation to pass out of the House, HB 130, raises the standards of accountability on offenders and thus makes the risk of engaging in this activity outweigh the rewards. Appropriately titled the “End Demand Act,” the bill takes a market-based approach to solving this problem. Like in any business, the amount of production is based on the demand for the product. If, through increased punishment and enforcement, we are able to greatly diminish the level of demand, then we can start the process of eliminating it altogether.

Specific parts of the bill include increasing the penalty for soliciting a minor from a misdemeanor to a felony, as well as making it illegal for someone to purchase advertising space for sexual activity for hire that uses a depiction of a minor. It will take diligence to ensure this problem becomes a thing of the past because criminals are always finding new ways to skirt the law, whether it is sex trafficking or something else. But when we are dealing with such a disgusting activity that exploits innocent human beings—especially children—public outrage and attention should remain high.

House Bill 130, as well as the reforms passed and signed during the previous legislative term, are positive steps toward reducing human trafficking in Ohio. But they alone will not stop the problem completely. It will take even greater efforts in the future, as well as an educated public, to stay ahead of this issue.

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