Saturday, April 28, 2012

Responding to human trafficking requires shift in thinking, trafficking, victims, victim - Local News -


April 27, 2012 8:09 PM

The national hotline for trafficking help or information is 1-888-3737-888.
In the region, contact Laurel Neufeld Weaver, rape crisis and anti-human trafficking program coordinator for the Northwest Ohio Human Trafficking Rescue and Restore Coalition at 419-222-8666.
LIMA — To a police officer, a prostitute is a suspect in a crime. To view that person as a human trafficking victim requires a major shift in philosophy.

First responders, court workers and health and social service providers discussed this blurred line and new views Friday in a workshop designed for them: “Waiting for Us to Care: Responding to Human Trafficking in Our Communities.”

The workshop featured author Theresa Flores, who travels the country to share her personal story as a trafficked teenager. Those attending also heard a legislative update and received information on how to recognize, counsel and provide help for trafficking victims. The day was sponsored by the Northwest Ohio Human Trafficking Rescue and Restore Coalition, Allen County Rape Crisis Coalition, Bradfield Community Center, Crime Victim Services and Lima Memorial Health System.

Sex and labor trafficking is modern day slavery, said David Voth, director of Crime Victim Services, which operates in Allen and Putnam counties. It exists in Ohio and the region. Crime Victim Services have assisted nine victims of the crime in the past 18 months, Voth said.

Here are the demographics of those nine:

Eight are women.

Eight are Ohio-born; one is foreign.

Seven were trafficked for sex; two were trafficked for labor.

Four are juveniles.

Six had contact with law enforcement.

Lima Police Investigator David Gillispie is also a sworn federal officer and works with FBI on the Northwest Ohio Violent Crimes Against Children Task Force. Gillispie is one who's made that shift in thinking. He told the group of nearly 100 gathered at Bradfield Community Center that taking a victim-centered approach is being “half-cop, half-social worker.”

Task force members spend time at the truck stops in Beaverdam and social workers encounter victims at shelters and hospitals. Similar to domestic violence victims, Voth and Gillispie said, trafficking victims can need multiple chances to ask for or seek help.

“Really, it's about learning how to begin a conversation with someone who's worn down, possibly brainwashed, possibly addicted,” Voth said.

From his perspective, Gillispie said he has come to understand that working with people, especially young women, to identify people who have trafficked them and made them victims is an opportunity to take out the real perpetrators.
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