COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A major push to crackdown on human trafficking is underway at the Ohio State Fair as the Ohio Attorney General’s office placed signs in the restrooms.
The signs are posted in every stall in every bathroom — men and women — at the fairgrounds.
Many attend the Ohio State Fair with their families to have a good time, not always knowing that someone could be forced into sex work right under their noses.
The signs are bold and clear:
“You could be the link that breaks the chains.”
“Set the victims free. Lock up the predators.”
The attorney general’s office placed the signs with a number to call if you suspect someone, or you yourself, are being trafficked.
“I think it’s good, but hopefully, it’s effective,” said fairgoer Joleah Mays. “Hopefully if you call the numbers, someone will come, you know, save you or help you out as soon as possible.”
Many of the women at the fair Sunday echoed Mays’ thoughts.
“Whatever we can do to make a difference, to do away with it,” said fairgoer Lori Boldi. “Hopefully, we have it in enough languages that people will be able to understand.”
Hollie Daniels was forced into prostitution when she was 15. Now, she works to help others avoid or escape trafficking with the Reach for the Shining Stars organization.
“I was just tired,” she said of when she left the lifestyle she was forced into. “Someone offered me help. For the first time in my life, someone asked me if I wanted out.”
Daniels said she is glad the attorney general’s office placed the signs up at the state fair.
“I would say 90 percent of the women that are out here sex working would be compelled, forced, or coerced into the act of prostitution,” she said.
Daniels and her friend Valarie Holdren use their experiences to help others stop trafficking through Reach for the Shining Stars.
“When I was out there, I knew women as young as 13 and 14 that were on the streets and in some of the same houses as me,” Daniels said.
“In the lifestyle, I’ve been beaten, raped, robbed, kidnapped,” Holdren said. “It’s a really scary lifestyle.”
Efforts by both organizations like Shining Stars and law enforcement seem to be working.
According to a newly released 2018 federal human trafficking report, there are nearly 40 percent fewer criminal human trafficking cases in Ohio’s southern district compared to 2017.
Mays said she’s going to continue to take precautions so she doesn’t become a victim.
“That’s one of my biggest fears, is being kidnapped,” she said. “I definitely feel bad for the ladies that are being human trafficked because it is a big topic in the world now.”