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Ohio University tackles Ohio human trafficking head on

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More slaves exist today than ever in human history, and an Ohio University student is determined to change that.

Senior communications major Megan Gallagher has spearheaded the Ohio University End Slavery Movement. A movement aimed at raising awareness of the modern day slavery epidemic by encompassing a collective voice across Ohio University’s campus while combining efforts to rescue and restore the lives of those affected.

Hearing the word “slaves” may resonate as a shock for some, but human trafficking is just another form of modern day slavery. The $32 billion-a-year industry keeps 27 million people enslaved across the globe today.

Slavery exists in 161 countries and the United States is no exception. In fact, Toledo, OH serves as a hub for human trafficking, topping the list as the fourth largest recruitment site in the country.

Ohio finds itself particularly vulnerable to the business of exploitation for two reasons. First, large urban centers and rural counties that confine a large transient and immigration population make it increasingly difficult for law enforcement agents to identify and combat the issue. Then, to complicate the matter further, Ohio’s five major highways are used as a tool for traffickers to transport and sell youth and adults among other states and the Canadian border.

The Ohio Human Trafficking Commission sanctioned by Attorney General Mike DeWine recommends that the human trafficking can be prevented by opening the eyes of the public. Gallagher is doing just that.

Her plans for OU-ESM targets a group of people that have the voice, and capacity to sweep not only Ohio, but the country: college students. OU-ESM received recognition from the Ohio Governor’s office, as well as the 14 coalitions existing in Ohio, and is now a part of the Governor’s network of human trafficking coalitions. The coalitions, who are faced with writing detailed granted and proposals, are eager to collaborate with OU-ESM.

“The coalitions are excited to have the university base because they finally have the manpower and voice that they needed for so long,” said Gallagher.

OU-ESM is preparing “End Slavery Week” held on Ohio University’s campus on the Week of November 4. It’s goal is to open the eyes of college students to the harsh reality of human trafficking and give students the chance to participate in empowering learning opportunities.

Raising awareness is only part of the plight against human trafficking.  One of the central concerns advocates are confronted with is finding stable shelter or housing for newly identified victims.

OU-ESM helps alleviate these concerns through its partnerships with the Ohio Coalition Rescue and Restore, and the Athens County Advocacy Center. During “End Slavery Week” and the duration of the school year, OU-ESM will donate items to Ohio Rescue and Restore that are key in liberating those who have been saved from slavery.

OU-ESM and its non-profit partner the Athens County Advocacy Center, joined together to tackle domestic human trafficking locally in Athens Ohio. Prior to their work, no place in Athens was able to provide education, resources and outreach about the important and relevant issue of human trafficking, in addition to serving child sexual assault survivors and their families. Now, people have somewhere to call when they spot or are involved in human trafficking.

Another issue that surrounds anti-human trafficking efforts is proper legislation to bring about change that advocates wish to see in the government. OU-ESM works by asking students to sign a petition to show that there are people listening, and finding a solution to end human trafficking is something that they strongly support.

With the work of state representatives like Teresa Fedor, a long standing humanitarian, Ohio has proven its dedication to finding a solution to human trafficking. Fedor drafted legislation that enhanced the penalty for human trafficking. Her most recent initiative is House Bill 130, which addressed the market-driven demand for commercial sex trafficking along with other important provisions.

“We are a part of the transformational cause,” said Gallagher. “We want to give a voice to the voiceless, but it takes a lot more. We need to focus on raising awareness, starting at Ohio University then throughout Ohio, and every person that hears about our cause is a step closer to ending human trafficking.”

 

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