One of the more difficult topics to talk about in modern society — human trafficking — was discussed Jan. 30 at the Delaware County District Library branch in Ostrander.
Modern-day slavery continues, with 27 to 40 million people being trafficked worldwide. Even though slavery is officially banned in every nation, there are more slaves now than any time in history. People’s labor and services are being exploited, even locally, said Brande Urban, United Way of Delaware County director of collective impact.
For example, the PBS television series “Frontline” looked at forced labor trafficking at central Ohio egg farming operations in 2018. Guatemalan teens were smuggled into the United States and were forced to live and work in filthy conditions, with most of their pay going to those who gave them entry. There have been arrests and convictions in the case.
Products made in other countries can also involve exploited labor, including chocolate. Urban said you can find out “How many slaves work for you?” by going to the website slaveryfootprint.org.
Urban said the average age for prostitution is 13. Many have been previously abused, and LGBTQ youth are particularly vulnerable.
“A frequent comment I hear is that people have no idea this is a crime happening in their own backyards,” Urban states in a news release. “Victims of human trafficking are of all genders, ages, races, and more. The best way to start to help is to empower yourself to learn more.”
She said there is a sub-culture that romanticizes the sex industry in movies such as “Pretty Woman” and jokes about pimping. Some people, including whole families, end up recruiting girlfriends and others to be trafficked, using praise, drugs and purchases to keep them employed.
When that doesn’t work, Urban said, threats are used. She referred to Theresa Flores, who in her first-hand account “The Slave Next Door,” wrote that her traffickers threatened the lives of her family.
Urban said Delaware County Against Human Trafficking (DCAHT), a coalition that works with victims and survivors of human trafficking, is convened by United Way of Delaware County and the Salvation Army of Central Ohio. Urban said the Salvation Army was one of the first major organizations involved in caring for trafficking victims.
“We are a coordinated Delaware County community response to end human trafficking through advocacy, education, prevention and ongoing comprehensive services,” the DCAHT mission statement reads. Founding partners include the Delaware City Police Department, Delaware City Prosecutor’s Office, Delaware County Job and Family Services, Delaware County Victim Services, Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office, Delaware County Sheriff’s Office, Turning Point, and HelpLine of Delaware of Delaware and Morrow Counties, Inc.
Among the other organizations involved on the front lines at area truck stops is Truckers Against Trafficking, she said. In addition, hotel soap and bar coasters are being used to provide victims with a contact to get out of their situation.
Other resources include the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
“With January being Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we felt that it was important to use the library as a place for the community to learn about the victims of this horrible crime, where to find resources for help, and how people can offer their time and talents to help,” Ostrander Branch Manager Harla Lawson states in a release.
Another difficult topic — the opioid epidemic — will be discussed by Berkeley Franz and Dan Skinner, co-editors of the book “Not Far from Me: Stories of Opioids and Ohio,” at 7 p.m. today at the Delaware Main Library, 84 E. Winter St., Delaware. Registration is requested. For more information, visit www.delawarelibrary.org on the Events page.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.