Think smart, exercise caution for safety’s sake

What started with an acquaintance who met someone online and invited that individual to her home too quickly turned into a major search about human trafficking. Every day people go missing. Films portray ‘fatal attraction’ arising from moving too fast into a relationship with someone who is really a stranger. The message to take away from this reading is to use caution when you meet someone new. Your inclination may be that naïve thought that nobody would ever target you as a victim. Should you stake your safety and well being on that thought, perhaps your very life?

A Cleveland woman trusted her boyfriend. She is in recovery from the rapes, beatings from men who bought her services while she was victimized by human trafficking, things that she did not elaborate about on camera. But, with help, she made it out. And she shares her story with young women who are at risk, hoping that they will listen, really listen, to what happened to her.

This article isn’t to say every stranger you meet is a human trafficker. It’s to emphasize the importance of using caution and protecting yourself until you know for sure that the person you are meeting is safe to admit into your world.

The Human Trafficking Commission, under the auspices of Ohio’s Attorney General’s Office, reports that human trafficking is a problem in Ohio. In fact, Ohio falls fifth on the list of the 50 states in relation to human trafficking, according to the Polaris Project. Ohio is a hub of prostitution, the reasons being the high amount of traffic that passes on our major roadways and the truck stops and motels adjacent to those thoroughfares. White females are the most frequent targets. One in six runaways become victims of traffickers. But it can happen to anyone, any age.

Human trafficking may be forced labor, sex trafficking, or a number of other things including debt bondage and children exploited for commercial sex.

Traffickers use drugs (particularly heroin) and violence to control their victims. (You might want to consider this when you are heatedly against using Narcan to prevent death in overdose cases. It suggests that often there is more to the story than what you are aware of.) Drugs and alcohol dependency is the first factor on the list of contributing factors for someone to become a victim of human trafficking.

Trafficking is low risk and high profits. An unidentified law enforcement officer interviewed at the Ohio Attorney General’s website advises that a trafficker can make $200,000 to $300,000 per victim. If they have several, they can receive a million dollars annually. (Obviously they don’t earn it.) But law enforcement is taking traffickers down and they are going to prison.

These are reasons for more awareness of human trafficking. While law enforcement intervention is required – the victims don’t have the means to escape alone – everyone is a stake holder in the problem. Your eyes and ears are very important, and reporting suspicious activity to authorities who can investigate. (Report human trafficking to the BCI (855-224-6446), the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (888-373-7888) or text “BeFree” (233133).

Stranger Danger is not just something we teach our young children about, though that is extremely important. It’s just as important for adults who may be perceived to be weak by a predator. Meeting a new guy or gal for the first time? Make it a public place where there are other people around. Let a friend or family member know where you are going and arrange a time for a text message to check on you. If you don’t answer, that person will report to the police. Don’t invite a stranger to your home. Drive yourself to the ‘date’ and don’t give personal information about yourself until you know it’s safe to do so. If your instincts tell you something is off, listen to it and walk away.

And talk to your children about dating safety and Internet safety. Anyone can tell you anything you want to hear. If you can’t see them, observe their body language, their voice inflections, who they really are, how do you know they are telling you the truth about themselves? Be safe. Use caution and common sense. Think with your head, not your heart, for safety’s sake.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded, in part, by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.

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