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COLUMBUS, Ohio (CGE) – According to the Ohio Attorney General’s office (OAG), which manages the Human Trafficking Commission (HTC), no one matching the description of Lisbeth Salander, the enigmatic 25-year old fictional action hero at the center of the sensational Millennium Trilogy — “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Girl Who Played With Fire,” The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” was present at the HTC’s second meeting Wednesday.
Charged to study the problem of human trafficking as it occurs in Ohio, HTC will review the criminal offenses in Ohio law that currently apply to such conduct and the penalties for those offenses and develop recommendations to address the problem of human trafficking and to improve criminal law.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine formed the Human Trafficking Commission to not only continue the work of the previous commission but also to make sure action is taken.
The OAG’s Website says the HTC consists of more than 20 offices and agencies throughout the state as well as survivors of human trafficking. Since the Trafficking in Persons Study Commission was convened in 2009, the commission has released a major report on the prevalence of human trafficking in Ohio and recommendations for how Ohio law can be strengthened to battle this crime.
Mark Moretti of the OAG told CGE that, in addition to organizational matters, the HTC heard from Ohio Rep. Teresa Fedor, a Toledo lawmaker who has taken on the issue of human trafficking. It also heard from Dr. Williamson of the University of Toledo, who is working on trying to quantify the problem in Ohio. Additionally, Alex Kreidenweis, a graduate assistant in public administration at the University of Dayton, briefed commission members on his work to further define human trafficking through interviews with people directly or indirectly involved with the crime. Moretti said his work will bring a “different perspective, an overarching definition that can aid in determining best approaches to combat the problem and help the victim.”
Brent Currence, Director of Missing Children at the AG’s Missing Children Clearinghouse, reported that he’s organizing law enforcement working groups to talk about how they approach these cases and how to learning and collaborate on cases that are often difficult and challenging, Moretti said.
The HTC says an international black market where victims are held against their will and forced to work for their captors is all too real. Forced labor or prostitution, frequently involving children, are central to human traffickers.
Separately, Tina Frundt, founder of Courtney’s House, a program that rescues and provides resources and shelter to trafficking survivors in Washington, D.C., told an audience of about 250 Thursday at the Human Services Institute, an annual conference on health, social and economic issues hosted by the Center for Community Solutions, that the problem is much bigger than many people believe, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
The former foster child who, at age 14, was taken to a house in Cleveland where four other teen girls lived and where she was raped by two men she didn’t know, told reporter Margaret Bernstein, “Here we label it something else. We say it’s prostitution, it’s pimping….but it’s actually the marketing and selling of children.” Frundt said teens and even younger children are pulled in regularly to work as prostitutes, in strip clubs and to produce child porn, according to Frundt. “It’s supply and demand economics at work, and unfortunately the demand is for our children,” she said, adding that “Until society wakes up and views it that way, children will continue to be exploited.”
“The Human Trafficking Commission will…take on the issue from a law enforcement perspective, raising public awareness and working to put traffickers behind bars,” Attorney General DeWine said.
Human Trafficking usually involves trafficking persons for use in the sex trade or in illegal labor operations, the AG’s office notes. Nationally, it says, over half of all human trafficking cases involve victims under the age of 18, and most girls who are engaged in sex trafficking begin between the ages of 12 and 14.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that at least 100,000 American children become engaged in child prostitution and child trafficking each year.
“While the statutory commission may have issued a final report, our work is not done on the issue of human trafficking in Ohio,” DeWine, present at the first meeting but not at the second, said. The former U.S. Senator elected Ohio AG last November wants the HTC to help him develop “practices and proposals to root out human trafficking in our state.”
In the Millennium Trilogy, Salander, a frail but tough 90-pound weirdo who’s an antisocial mathematical genius, a brilliant hacker with a photographic memory and a vengeful killer and unforgiving moralist, all wrapped into one punk character, is dedicated to stopping the violence that men inflict on women, enabled through human trafficking. While human trafficking is a major theme in the thriller series, abuse of women is equally powerful.
Moretti did not confirm but expects the HTC to meet again in December.
Watch the video on human trafficking from the Human Trafficking Collaborative of Lorain County.
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