Students from around the state recently came to the Ohio Statehouse to lobby for a bill that requires 16 and 17-year-olds who are thought to be victims of human trafficking be treated the same as younger children who are covered by the state’s "Safe Harbor" law.
Those younger kids can get pardons and have their criminal records expunged in cases that involve human trafficking. But 16 and 17-year-olds often have to prove there was coercion first. These students from around the state say it’s time that all children under the age of 18 get the same treatment.
“Hi, I’m Jordan Baith and I’m from Akron. I’ve known multiple people who have been sexually abused or have an abusive family home life. Specifically, someone in my family, she was a drug addict and an alcoholic and her husband would abuse her and make her sleep with dealers for drugs.”
“Hi, my name is Jada McIntyre and I’m from Toledo, Ohio. The international declaration of human rights says that slavery is supposed to be prohibited in all of their forms. And so, if human trafficking is the most recent form of slavery, and these 16 and 17-year-olds are the victims, which is never their fault because human trafficking is never the intended purpose of their actions, why wouldn’t we take any preventative measures that we can to help protect them?”
“Hi, I’m Luke Buckingham. I’m from Akron, Ohio. A 16 and 17-year-old cannot consent to someone who is well above their age under the influence of drugs, alcohol, various types of gifts, And blaming victims of a crime, of being complicit of someone else’s crime is not acceptable. We don’t blame a teller if a bank gets robbed so why would we blame a victim of sex trafficking for being sex trafficked?”
“Hi, My name is Sarah Hofius. I’m from Cleveland, Ohio and this bill is really important to me. LBTQ youth are already vulnerable, no matter if you are in Ohio or wherever you are in the world. The rate of homelessness is so much higher than it is for heterosexual youth. And the homelessness can involve getting into trafficking. That is another vulnerability so not only are they not homeless or experience violence at home, they are now exposed to this human trafficking. So I think since they are already vulnerable in so many different ways, this should not have to be something that they worry about constantly.”
“Hi. My name is Ben Skavnak and I live in Sandusky, Ohio. I am in support of this bill, this non-partisan bill, because 16 and 17-year-olds, they cannot consent to sex, and I just feel like this bill would just really, really help just the influence of knowing what sex trafficking is if one person can say that they are a victim without having to prove coercion, force or fraud, then that just influences people around them….tens, hundreds of people and it just helps with protecting against human trafficking which needs to end now. Thank you.”