Sex sells. And in Ohio, it trades pretty well, too. In fact, Ohio is putting up some huge numbers, ranking fifth on the charts for U.S. human trafficking.
Fifth-worst, that is.
In the Buckeye State, 88% of human trafficking is “sex trafficking.” Although fairly covert (especially to those who don’t wish to see it), this business is already big and is growing each year. It includes anyone under 18 in the sex industry (prostitution, stripping, pornography, etc.), and anyone over 18 in the sex industry recruited with force, fraud, or coercion.
And business is booming. Last year human trafficking surpassed illegal gun sales, and at current rates it will surpass drug trafficking within the next three years. Unlike gun dealers and drug lords, human traffickers can sell their supplies (for that’s what trafficking victims are reduced to) over and over again.
Most trafficking victims are lured in between the ages of 12-14. Lured. Not stolen. Not taken. Each child’s grooming process is as unique as they are, tailored to fit the most pressing need in their life. (Sometimes it’s as simple as a few meals at a fast food establishment.) They are sucked into slavery without even realizing it–until it is too late, and there is no way out.
Education stops. They have no money or assets. Victims don’t even have control over their own bodies. When those self-same bodies mature into the likeness of adults, they are seen on the street, sold on the internet, and usually dismissed as adults who “made bad life choices.” New research out of the University of Toledo, however, indicates that a large majority of these adults are simply child victims that were never rescued.
Yet most Ohioans fall into one of three categories. One, they simply don’t know. Two, they don’t know what to do about it. Three, they simply don’t care. These views typically stem from disinformation. The truth is, sex trafficking takes place in your zip code, and you, the taxpayer, are picking up the tab.
Sex trafficking sets up a cycle of perpetual lifetime dependence on government to meet basic needs. When a slave becomes ill, the taxpayer foots the bill. When they are beaten, raped, or otherwise mishandled, again taxpayers must reach for their wallets. Due to the nature of sex trafficking, venereal diseases and multiple pregnancies abound. Many diseases are terminal, and again, all treatment is paid for at the expense of the taxpayer. Children born to prostitutes suffer the same lifestyle, perpetuating the curse of generational poverty and often ending up in the sex trade themselves.
Sex trafficking victims do not have an income outside of what their pimp allows them to keep. Therefore, the birth, the rearing of any children not aborted, the medical and dental care, the psychological problems–all are on the backs of the Ohio taxpayer. And those are just the direct fiscal consequences. Peripheral fiscal consequences involve community resources, such as increased police presence, crimes associated with drug addiction, food banks, children services–on and on.
Once released by a pimp, victims are ill-equipped to live any sort of normal existence. For all intents and purposes, they are mentally and emotionally the age originally enslaved, but now with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) from repeated beatings, and often drug addictions. Again, the Ohio taxpayer comes to the rescue. The slave, even when “free,” is still enslaved, just to a different slave owner, the state.
Fiscally, in the end, it will cost the taxpayer much less to teach slaves to be free, productive citizens, than to support them into perpetuity.
Spiritually, morally, humanly, the savings would be priceless.
While it is important to understand how sex trafficking affects Ohioans’ bank accounts, far more important are the devastating spiritual consequences. Sex trafficking is modern day slavery, bondage which seeks to ensnare our community’s children. It is morally corrupting of both family and culture.
This is a social justice issue that conservatives (and especially Christians) must champion. Too long have conservatives been labeled by the mainstream media as unsympathetic–and if we don’t engage, we’ll prove the media right. This is a righteous fiscal and moral fight that we can win, if only we dare to wage it. We are, indeed, our brother’s keeper, and we should be compelled to act in defense of this defenseless population.
COMING SOON ON OCR: Ohio conservatives have the opportunity to be banner carriers in this fight with a systematic, four-pronged approach.
Tonya Folks is the Development Director of Be FREE Dayton. She helped establish Be FREE Dayton as a professional non-profit in the Miami Valley and is committed to abolishing sex trafficking in the region. Tony is a broadcast news journalist, grant writer, event coordinator, follower of Christ, mother, wife, and Master of Public Administration.
Elizabeth van Dine is the Executive Director of Be FREE Dayton. She was Director & Event Coordinator for the Love146 Dayton Task Force since 2010. In 2011, she was named one of the “Top 25 Women to Watch” by the Women in Business and Networking organization. She hopes to lead FREE in the local movement against modern day slavery and liberate the Miami Valley from domestic sex trafficking.
Michael Hamilton contributed to this article.
All opinions expressed belong solely to their authors and may not be construed as the opinions of other writers or of OCR staff.