Today, state Senator Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and state Representative Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) hosted the 10th annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day at the Ohio Statehouse. This year, the event focused on how the opioid crisis has impacted and increased the risk of human trafficking.
“I am so incredibly honored to be part of Human Trafficking Awareness Day again this year. Celebrating 10 years of sharing information, honoring survivors, and connecting people with advocacy groups is an amazing accomplishment,” said Representative Galonski. “Still, there is so much work to be done. Senator Fedor and I will continue advocating for these survivors as we aim to eliminate this modern day slavery known as human trafficking. We cannot standby as women and children are being sold and exploited.”
“We hear the stories of addicted parents selling their children into sex slavery,” said Senator Fedor. “Sharing the expertise of those who are working on the ground doing everything they can to stop this is something I’m proud to do every year.”
In addition to remarks from Senator Fedor and Representative Galonski, the day included an invocation from Senator Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus), an officials greeting from Senator Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard), remarks from Attorney General Dave Yost and a keynote address from Erik L. Bauer. Bauer, an attorney from Tacoma, Washington, famously ended immunity for Backpage.com in a precedent setting case on behalf of one 9th and two 7th grade clients being sold for sex on the webpage to as many as 20 adults per day. His work is featured in the Netflix documentary I Am Jane Doe.
“Senator Fedor really is a pioneer. She has been working on this issue long before it became fashionable to,” said Bauer. “Ohio is one of the forefront states in our country when it comes to protecting victims, who are among the most abused people in our society. It’s a pleasure to be a part of this event, to learn from Ohioans and share my work with people in the state.”
During the day, over 40 panelists, including human trafficking survivors, discussed topics such as health care, social work and social services as well as law enforcement and legal services. The last panel also featured survivors.
“There are so many of us fighting to pave the way for survivors to start a new life and to make their dreams come true,” said Barbara Freeman, a human trafficking survivor and Founder of The Freeman Project, a Columbus-based transitional housing program for survivors. “Senator Fedor and Representative Galonski are strong voices for this community. They’re identifying tougher laws and penalties to end demand while ensuring equal rights for those who were once trafficked.”