Hundreds of people gathered in Columbus for the 10th annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day to discuss the most pressing issues related to the issue and share what has been working in their communities.
Advocates, law enforcement, attorneys and human trafficking survivors filled the Ohio Statehouse atrium for the conference hosted by Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Rep. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron).
When Fedor first created this event just a few dozen people were in attendance, now more than 400 participate.
She says success can be measured by the ideas and best practices that are shared throughout the day.
“Bring everyone together and comb through the aspect of their policy, their procedures, and think of a trafficking victim, and can they service them. Can they rescue them? Can they service them? Provide restoration and help them get back to a life worth living in America,” says Fedor.
Groups from different backgrounds and professions have tables set up to share what they’re doing to help survivors of human trafficking.
That includes Theresa Flores of Columbus. She created “Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution” or S.O.A.P. Her group prints the number for the human trafficking hotline on bars of soap and distributes them to hotels and motels.
Flores is a survivor of human trafficking herself. She was living in the suburbs when her predator got a hold of her. She says human trafficking is in every zip code.
“We just as a society have to get better at recognizing the signs and having a plan in place of what are we going to do if we see something,” Flores says.
Fedor says she hopes the conference will help inform legislators as they move forward with new laws. That includes getting tougher on the predators who buy and sell trafficking victims.
The National Human Trafficking hotline is 1 (888) 373-7888.