AKRON, Ohio — The RISE Program through Akron Municipal Court is giving help and hope to human trafficking victims.
RISE, which stands for Restore Individual Self Empowerment, was started last October. Eight women are currently in the program. Three more women may join soon, according to Judge Ron Cable.
"Ohio has the fourth largest population of sex trafficking victims in the United States," Cable said. "I think it's safe to say that there are thousands of victims in this state alone."
RISE was modeled after a program in Franklin County and was created to help female victims of human trafficking, prostitution, and sexual exploitation.
It's the first program in Summit County for adults facing these issues.
To be eligible for RISE, the women must have pleaded guilty to their charges and be a victim of human trafficking.
The women are granted probation for their criminal offenses and volunteer to participate in the program.
"They're expected to go to trauma therapy and drug rehabilitation, if drugs are an issue," Cable said.
The women are also offered safe housing, mentoring and employment services.
Angel Dague, a human trafficking survivor, shares her story online and through public speaking.
She got hooked on drugs when she was a teenager, and as an adult, met a man who pushed her into prostitution.
"He pretty much beat me and put me on the street," Dague said.
Dague now works for Akron-based RAHAB Ministries, which helps women and children rescued from human trafficking or drug addiction. She believes RISE is a significant difference maker for Summit County.
"Some of these women have never felt love. Some have been sold and trapped in by their own family," Dague said. "I just think that support and that encouragement gives a person inside something to drive for."