(Cleveland, OH) -According to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world. Ohio Department of Health says that human trafficking cases have been reported in all 50 states, with Ohio ranked as high as fifth among all states in total reported human trafficking cases and Toledo being identified as the fourth highest ranking city in the nation for recruiting victims into the illegal trade.
Human trafficking thrives in the shadows of our community, where survivors feel unseen. The COVID-19 pandemic has made those shadows bigger and darker. With the stay-at-home orders and the economic crisis putting more people in financial distress, it is feared that many are even more vulnerable to traffickers and that it is even harder for survivors to break away and seek support.
To help survivors of human trafficking, the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center (CRCC) launched a dedicated hotline, Project STAR (Sex Trafficking Advocacy & Recovery), in 2013. Since then, the volume of calls has steadily increased each year as first-responders and the community-at-large have become better able to identify human trafficking and seek support for survivors. However in the first half of 2020, CRCC has experienced a 50% decrease in call volume.
Photos courtesy of Cleveland Rape Crisis Center
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