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Advocates: fighting human trafficking requires 'multifaceted' approach

Human trafficking
Posted at 7:08 PM, Oct 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-26 23:22:48-04

CLEVELAND — Just a few weeks after Ohio’s largest sex trafficking sting ever, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is continuing to push for a “John's registry” that he believes would reduce the demand for buying sex in Ohio.

RELATED: Largest human trafficking sting in Ohio highlights changes to state law

“Human trafficking exists for one thing: for money,” Yost said. “People are trying to make money off of selling other human beings.”

Yost said if you deter people from wanting to buy sex, then there’s no market for human trafficking.

“It's now a more serious crime in Ohio to buy sex than to sell sex,” Yost said. “And that's a good thing.”

Yost is in favor of a so-called “John's registry,” a database of people convicted of buying sex.

“And if you think that your mom or your daughter or your girlfriend or wife is going to find out that you got popped for trying to buy sex, you might think twice before you put your money down,” Yost said.

A “Sexual Exploitation Database” was originally proposed in House Bill 431, a bill considered by Ohio lawmakers last year, but ultimately, the idea didn’t make the final cut. Still, Yost said there’s support for the idea, and he plans to continue persuading lawmakers it would help.

“We will never stop human trafficking if we do not hold offenders accountable and prevent them from hurting other people,” said Sondra Miller, president and CEO of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.

Miller said fighting back against human trafficking requires a “multifaceted” approach: “It requires supporting survivors of trafficking. It involves prosecuting the traffickers, and it also involves reducing the demand.”

Public shaming, Miller said, is only one type of deterrent, and it’s important to go after perpetrators of human trafficking, including pimps and those buying sex, typically called Johns. That’s a word the Rape Crisis Center is considering no longer using.

“What we've been talking about is just saying ‘the John’ almost minimizes what's happening, and it often suggests that the person purchasing the sex doesn't know it's a trafficking situation,” Miller said. “And what our experience is telling us is they most often do.”

Regardless of the terminology, Miller said the registry idea “shines a spotlight on the demand side of human trafficking.”

“The attorney general is saying something is better than nothing, but we have to do something to let people know that this is not OK in our state,” Miller said.

Miller noted that Ohio ranks among the top few states in the country in terms of calls to a human trafficking hotline.

“I would never want to be 50th on that list because human trafficking happens everywhere. It's just a matter of whether the community is working hard to stop it or not,” Miller said.

The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center’s role, Miller noted, is “to provide a confidential hotline to survivors or others who may be in contact with someone who's in a trafficking situation. Our role is to provide advocacy for victims as they may be navigating the criminal justice system or their case may be moving forward, and also to provide trauma counseling.”

Earlier this year, the Rape Crisis Center opened a drop-in center for survivors of human trafficking in the Glenville neighborhood.

RELATED: Cleveland Rape Crisis Center expands services for human trafficking survivors with East Side facility

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