Our backyard slave trade: the result of Ohio's failure to enact comprehensive state-level human-sex-trafficking legislation.

AuthorRocha, Priscila A.
  1. INTRODUCTION II. AN OVERVIEW OF HUMAN SEX TRAFFICKING III. FEDERAL ANTI-TRAFFICKING INITIATIVES IV. THE NEED FOR STATE INVOLVEMENT V. FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO HUMAN SEX TRAFFICKING IN OHIO A. Geography B. Demographics C. Ohio's Law Enforcement Dilemma VI. OHIO'S ANTI-TRAFFICKING INITIATIVES VII. OHIO'S FAILURE TO ENACT COMPREHENSIVE ANTI-TRAFFICKING LEGISLATION A. Proposed Recommendations 1. Preventing Human Trafficking 2. Training for Law Enforcement 3. Consistent Data Collection 4. Implementation of a Public Awareness Campaign B. Protecting Victims 1. Social Service Benefits During Pre-Certification Period 2. Private Right of Action VII. CONCLUSION "An ounce of cocaine, wholesale, $1200, but you can only sell it once. A woman or a child, $50 to $100, but you can sell them each day, every day, over and over and over again. The markup is immeasurable." (1)


    In December 2010, the Ohio Senate listened to the tragic story of a sex slave survivor; in response, the Ohio General Assembly (2) swiftly passed Senate Bill 235, the state's first anti-trafficking law making human trafficking a second-degree felony. (3) Theresa Flores, a former sex slave, was a fifteen-year-old high school student from an affluent Catholic family when she was brutally raped by her boyfriend, blackmailed, and forced into sexual slavery. (4) Often, she was forced to perform four to six sexual acts each night. (5) Flores's rapist, a fellow high school student she refers to as "Daniel," (6) told her that his cousins hid in the room to photograph her as she was raped. (7) Her traffickers then used psychological manipulation--such as threatening to reveal the photographs of her rape to her family and friends--to compel Flores to submit to their demands. (8) For two years, the traffickers forced Flores to take drugs, raped her, beat her, and sold her for sex. (9) Throughout the two year ordeal, her parents knew nothing. (10) By the time the Flores family relocated to a new city, an event that finally gave Flores the courage to share her story, it was too late to prosecute Daniel. (11) Her compelling story served as a catalyst, motivating Ohio lawmakers to join forty-two other states in enacting bipartisan, state level anti-trafficking legislation during a lame-duck session. (12)

    Another catalyst motivating the Ohio General Assembly to criminalize human trafficking came from voters. (13) Ohio's new law stemmed from a report conducted by the Ohio Trafficking in Persons Study Commission, which identified Ohio as a "hub" for human trafficking. (14) The report highlights several factors that contribute to Ohio's human trafficking problem, including a lack of state felony laws that would punish human traffickers. (15) The report generated local media coverage and prompted numerous advocacy groups, non-governmental organizations, and local universities to launch campaigns that urged voters to contact state legislators and request that they enact state level anti-trafficking legislation. (16) Subsequently, Ohio held its first Human Trafficking Awareness Day at the Ohio Statehouse. (17)

    Prior to the enactment of Senate Bill 235, Ohio's only anti-trafficking penal-code provision consisted of a sentencing enhancement provision that covered crimes implicating human sex trafficking. (18) The sentencing enhancement did little to reduce human sex trafficking in Ohio, and, as a result of its complexity, the law was never used. (19) Ohio's new anti-trafficking law, however, is much clearer. Senate Bill 235: defines involuntary servitude; amends the conspiracy and corruption statutes to include human trafficking; strengthens punishment for human trafficking by making labor and sex trafficking a second degree felony punishable by up to eight years in prison; and increases penalties for compelling prostitution of minors. (20) But this new law is merely the first step in successfully addressing Ohio's sex-trafficking dilemma. Ohio's next challenge is to effectively implement this law and expand it to include additional state laws that focus on trafficking victims.

    Ohio's newest anti-trafficking efforts serve as a constructive step, but more must be done to prevent human sex trafficking and to protect victims once they are brought to safety. Ohio's new law fails to address the needs of victims and to adequately protect them. This Note examines the shortcomings of Ohio's current anti-trafficking legislation and argues that additional victim-focused legislation must be enacted at the state level to prevent human trafficking and to protect victims. Specifically, this Note advocates for legislation similar to the bill proposed by the Ohio House of Representatives in 2009 that was never enacted. (21)

    Part II provides a broad overview of the human-sex-trafficking epidemic, its magnitude at an international level, and the United Nations' response. Part III discusses the scope of human trafficking within the United States. It also examines federal level anti-trafficking initiatives, including the Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), its reauthorizations, and its effectiveness in preventing domestic human trafficking and in protecting victims. Part IV addresses the urgent need for state involvement to combat human sex trafficking in Ohio. Part V addresses the prevalence of human sex trafficking in Ohio and examines the factors that contribute to its pervasiveness. Part VI examines the need for state level anti-trafficking legislation in Ohio. Finally, Part VII analyzes Ohio's current anti-trafficking legislation, examines anti-trafficking measures in other states, and argues that in the absence of additional victim-focused state level anti-trafficking legislation, Ohio's current human-trafficking measures are minimally effective. To strengthen Ohio's current anti-trafficking law, Ohio state legislatures must formulate a comprehensive plan to effectively punishing traffickers, while providing much needed victim services to those plagued by the brutal effects of this modern day slavery. (22)


    In its most basic form, human trafficking violates the fundamental freedom of choice. (23) Trafficking occurs in both developing and industrialized nations, including in the United States. (24) Human trafficking is defined as the:

    [r]ecruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, or receipt of persons by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. (25) Sex trafficking occurs in various forms: prostitution, sexual entertainment, sexual servitude, exotic dancing, pornography, and servile marriage. (26) A "commercial sex act" is defined as "any sexual act in which something of value is given or received." (27) Sex traffickers compel victims to provide sexual acts through a variety of coercive measures, including the use of brutal violence, threats of deportation, and threats of violence against family members. (28) Human trafficking is not a crime of movement. (29) Trafficking does not require that the victim be transported from one location to another; rather, trafficking refers to the elements of "fraud, force, or coercion" that result in the victim's inability to escape the traffickers' control. (30)

    Recognizing human trafficking as a global crisis, the international community promulgated a set of international human-trafficking standards titled The United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, also known as the Palermo Protocol. (31) The Protocol strives to persuade other countries to enact similar anti-trafficking legislation. (32) It was a momentous achievement for the international community because it identified human trafficking as an international problem that transcends borders, and, more importantly, it prompted international consensus on the need for domestic legislation worldwide. As of May 2012, 117 countries and 147 parties have signed the Protocol pledging to help prevent further instances of human trafficking. (33) The United States signed the Protocol on December 13, 2000, and later enacted federal legislation largely based on the Protocol's recommendations. (34)

    Human trafficking victims are often referred to as the "hidden population." (35) Statistics on trafficked victims are difficult to obtain due to the inherently underground nature of trafficking, the inability to get information from traffickers, and the vulnerability of trafficked victims. (36) But the Trafficking in Persons Report 2010 revealed that approximately 12.3 million adults and children are forced into labor or prostitution worldwide. (37) Traffickers compel victims into sexual slavery through a myriad of control mechanisms. (38) Human trafficking can be either sex trafficking or labor trafficking. Labor trafficking may consist of forced labor, (39) debt bondage, (40) involuntary domestic servitude, (41) and forced child labor, (42) Human sex trafficking differs from prostitution because sex trafficking refers to forced sexual acts while prostitution refers to sexual acts between consensual adults. (43) As such, prostitution by willing adults is not human trafficking. (44) Of the total number of trafficked victims, approximately 1.4 million are trafficked for the purpose of commercial sex exploitation. (45) The U.S. Department of State estimates that between 14,500 to 17,500 victims are annually trafficked in the United States. (46)

    The disproportionate ratio between identified human-trafficking victims and successful prosecutions illustrates the scope of this worldwide dilemma. In 2009, of the 49,105 victims identified in the United States, only 4166 cases ended in successful...

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