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Human Trafficking Victim Speaks For Harsher Ohio Legislation Against Trafficking
“I was kidnapped by men in this [sex trafficking] group and taken to an inner city Detroit, nasty, dirty motel,” said Flores. “It was announced, as I was dragged into the small hotel room, with two dozen men waiting for my arrival, that I ‘was a payment for a job well done,’ and that night, I was sold to the highest bidder.”
Flores, now 46, was first enslaved at age 15, while living in an upper middle-class Detroit suburb, and was one of over 100,000 women enslaved in the sex trade in the United States alone. A thousand of those reside in Ohio.
“Every child is vulnerable in some way, no matter if you live in the inner city of Toledo, Cleveland, Cincinnati or Columbus or if you are raised with the best of everything,” Flores said.
Flores was granddaughter of a judge and daughter of an executive with General Electric, but she remained vulnerable.
“These guys are masters of coercion and trickery,” Flores said. “They target the vulnerable and then use threats, manipulation and blackmail to force them into commercial sex or labor while they gain financially.”
There is currently limited legislation outlawing human trafficking. Former Gov. Ted Strickland signed a bill in 2010 (SB235), making it a stand-alone second degree felony offense with stronger penalties for abduction and kidnapping if they involve involuntary servitude.
“As a social worker, I can tell you, it will cost our state far more if we don’t do anything about this now,” Flores said.
In the United States 300,000 children are currently victimized by Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE).
“Human trafficking is the foremost youth and women’s rights issue of our time. Yet we hardly notice it,” Flores said. “We misidentify it as child or teen prostitution. In reality, there is no such thing. Simply by federal definition, it is human trafficking.”
In response to this often silent crime, Flores created S.O.A.P., which stands for Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution. The project’s goals are to educate motel owners and staff on human trafficking, offer a way for motel owners, clientele and victims to reach out for help and to address the demand side of trafficking through awareness.
She was appointed to the Ohio Attorney General’s Commission on the Study of Human Trafficking in 2009 and has testified before the Ohio House and Senate in support of human trafficking legislation.
Flores is the spokeswoman and director of education and training for Gracehaven House, a ten bed, long-term based care and rehabilitation home for young girls under the age of 18 who have been victimized by human trafficking.
“When my two teenage daughters asked me why I do this, why I went public and share my story and why I am trying to open Gracehaven, I told them it was for them,” Flores said. “Because if this ever happened to them, I would want a law behind me. I would want every tool possible available to me to fight back.”
“It’s important to teach others that this is happening, to prevent it from happening to others, to reach out and rescue those that are going through this and to help turn victims into survivors and rehabilitate and heal.”
Flores’ work has helped bring light to the issue and made her the first ever recipient of Ohio’s Courage Award.
Flores directed those wanting more information to her website, where there are quotes and info for the human trafficking cause.