Abolition Ohio takes the stage

Photo Illustration By: Grant Pepper

Photo Illustration By: Grant Pepper

There are 27 million slaves in the world today, according to Kathryn O’Connell, a University of Dayton senior and Abolition Ohio representative. O’Connell and fellow representative Alexandra Luna (a junior at UD) visited the high school at lunch on Wednesday, discussing human slavery and how to prevent it.

Abolition Ohio was inspired by the Dayton Human Trafficking Accords conference, held by the University of Dayton in 2009. According to their website, Abolition Ohio’s mission is “guided by the conference’s final declaration regarding society’s moral responsibility to abolish human trafficking and free slaves from their captivity.”

O’Connell and Luna discussed the many types of human trafficking, including sex trafficking, labor trafficking, and debt bondage.

It is estimated that nearly 100,00 children are trafficked for sex yearly in the U.S., and the life expectancy of those bound by this form of trafficking is just seven years. This is caused by the dangerous nature of their work, being at high risk for exposure to STDs, drug addiction, and violence.

In other forms of trafficking, children are used for manual labor to make cheap products with no cost to the employer. The slaves are bound to their work, however, for a multitude of reasons.

Many human slaves originated as runaways. According to O’Connell, “one out of every three runaways will be approached by a trafficker within 48 hours of their escape.”

Those who are at risk are also people with low self-esteem, poverty, and/or a lack of education. This includes illegal immigrants as well, as traffickers often smuggle the immigrants into the U.S. They then convince the immigrants that they owe the traffickers, and the only way to pay off their debts is by becoming a slave, often involving some sort of agricultural work.

Because the immigrants often speak little English and are in unfamiliar territory, they trust their trafficker and are more vulnerable to enslavement.

Ohio has a particularly big issue with human trafficking. With a multitude of interstate highways and the 5th most strip clubs in the country, the buckeye state’s’ youth is especially susceptible to trafficking dangers.

Toledo is also the top-ranked city in the nation, per capita, for human trafficking. While it is the 12th-poorest city in the state (according to the U.S. Census Bureau), it does contain the intersection of two major interstate highways, I-75 (North/South) and I-80 (East/West), which can lead to the easy transportation of slaves.

Despite all of the outlets for human trafficking to exist, there is still hope. Organizations like the Blue Heart Campaign and the S.O.A.P. project are assisting the effort to increase awareness of the issue.

Theresa Flores, author of ‘The Slave Across the Street’ (which details her account as a former human slave), might be visiting the high school to speak in January behind the efforts of the Ladies’ Breakfast Club.

For more details visit AbolitionOhio.org, and if an instance of human trafficking is sited, O’Connell said to call 888-3737-888 immediately.

By Grant Pepper

pepper.grant@oakwoodschools.org

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