COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Sunday is World Day Against Trafficking in Persons which aims to raise awareness about human trafficking.
It’s a problem in Ohio partly due to extensive highway systems and the large number of truck stops and strip clubs across the state. More than 1,000 children are trafficked annually in Ohio.
Gracehaven is a central Ohio nonprofit that helps children from all over the state. They have resources for children who have been trafficked by providing them with a case manager, therapy and even a residential facility.
The non-profit owns and operates the only licensed group home for sex-trafficked minors in the state.
“We provide a very holistic, trauma-informed care program to help these girls heal from some of the trauma of being victimized sexually,” said Vicky Thompson, the development director for Gracehaven.
The group home can house up to 12 girls, providing them with food, education, physical activities and a safe place to sleep.
“The girls are here and have 24/7 care. They do school on-site. They do life on-site. They heal together,” Thompson said.
Many of them need a safe place to stay because they know their trafficker. It can be a parent, a boyfriend, a relative or anyone else in a child’s life. Gracehaven staff said the girls need a private, secret place to live where their abusers can’t reach them.
“A lot of what we try to do too is reduce that stigma and help them understand that what happened to them wasn’t a choice, it wasn’t okay and that adults are supposed to be safe people,” said Micayla Wilson, the interdisciplinary coordinator for north Ohio at Gracehaven.
Wilson and Thompson said it takes work not only from everyone in Ohio, but in the nation to stop human trafficking.
“How do we really come together as a unified community to say no matter what you believe, no matter what you look like, no matter what background you have, we can all come together and say this is a problem,” Wilson said.
If you are being trafficked or you think someone you know might be, you can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888 or text INFO to 233733.
Click here to learn more about Gracehaven or donate to their cause.