State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) hosted the Seventh Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day today at the Ohio Statehouse, as lawmakers, law enforcement officials, advocates and survivors from across the state and nation gathered for a day of discussion on ways to raise awareness and fight back against human trafficking in Ohio. Fedor also outlined the next legislative steps in fighting modern-day slavery through reforming Ohio’s DNA collection methods, something she has proposed through House Bill 283.
“We have done a lot over the past ten years to make our communities and children safer, but we must do more,” said Rep. Fedor. “By requiring DNA specimen samples to be collected for misdemeanor offenses we can help to prevent heinous offenses that cripple families and devastate communities. House Bill 283 gives law enforcement the upper hand against human trafficking by linking criminals to their DNA sooner, rather than waiting for an offender to victimize an innocent person.”
Special guests at the event included U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown; U.S. Senator Rob Portman; Congresswoman Joyce Beatty; Universtiy of Toledo President Dr. Sharon L. Gaber; Ohio's Human Trafficking Coordinator Elizabeth Ranade-Janis; Lucas County Juvenile Court Judge Connie Zemmelman; Founder of Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution (SOAP), Theresa Flores; Director of the University of Toledo's Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute, Dr. Celia Williamson; and human trafficking survivors.*
“By engaging a diverse group of public servants, activists and survivors, this event has allowed us to both raise awareness and develop and implement comprehensive solutions to combat human trafficking,” said Fedor. “I want to thank the countless partners who have joined with me to fight the heinous crime of modern-day slavery. The work we have done in Ohio to combat human trafficking has put criminals behind bars, raised public awareness and given victims hope, and I look forward to continuing the charge as we begin the new year.”
This year’s keynote speaker was the honorable Connie Zemmelman, who has encountered the devastating effects of human trafficking on underage youth in her role as Lucas County Juvenile Judge.
Human trafficking affects more than 1,000 Ohio children every year, and more than 3,000 Ohio children are considered to be at high risk for trafficking. According to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Information Crime Reports, Ohio has ranked as high as fifth among all states in total reported human trafficking cases, with Toledo ranking as the fourth highest city in the nation for recruiting victims into the illegal trade.
Rep. Fedor is a longtime champion of human trafficking awareness and has worked diligently to fight back against trafficking in Ohio. Most recently, she successfully passed HB 130 – the End Demand Act – which increased the penalties for the purchase of sex from a minor and made other changes to cut down market-driven demand for purchasing commercial sex. In 2012, Fedor passed SB 235/HB 262 – the Safe Harbor Act – which increased the criminal penalties for traffickers and gives teenaged victims and survivors a chance to avoid a criminal conviction and instead turn their lives around.
Editor’s note: A comprehensive list of guest speakers and panel participants is attached.