Local salon workers looking out for signs of human trafficking

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) — It’s not just about cuts and curls at Kenneth’s salon.

Experts say that in the early stages of human trafficking, a man will sometimes show love by taking a young girl on a trip to a salon.

To help put an end to human trafficking in central Ohio, the salon’s owner says they care about their clients, especially young girls who come in for a special look and they’re not with their daddy.

“Typically there’s an adult with them who definitely seems to be controlling the conversation. They tend to act more timid and shy. Frequently, they don’t use their correct name and they use cash,” said Emily Harrison.

With 11 salons and day spas in central Ohio, the stylists and staff at Kenneth’s have had to call the human trafficking tip line more than a few times. That’s why more than 400 employees are teaming up with Out of Darkness, a faith-based non-profit trying to end the exploitation of women and girls.

“I think the biggest misconception is that we’re afraid that we’re going to get kidnapped and sold into slavery..and that’s really not how it happens it’s almost always thru relationships and especially thru social media,” said Brandy Zachariah with Out of Darkness. “That’s why you don’t talk to strangers, don’t build relationships with older men or men you don’t know on social media.”

Just last month, Ohio was given a C grade by Shared Hope International, a national organization that tracks sex trafficking laws. 13 other states are reportedly worse than Ohio when it comes to addressing sex trafficking.

In Ohio, prosecutors do not have to show proof of force, fraud or coercion when prosecuting sex trafficking cases involving children under the age of 16. The same is not true for 16 and 17-year-olds.

Child sex trafficking victims can avoid a juvenile delinquency adjudication and access services through court diversion programs, but those are not mandatory. Shared Hope International says that leads to disparate outcomes for victims.

“Traffickers are preying on vulnerability. If we’re putting it out there, ‘hey I’ve had a bad day with my mom,’ they’re going to swoop in and say, ‘I see you, I love you,’ and begin to build a relationship. And almost every time it’s through a relationship and manipulation. And then they’re being trafficked through that,” said Zachariah.

When they get out, they’re looking for a safe house. One such place is on the south side of Columbus, where a couple days a week, women and girls can get a meal, a shower and get the affirmation and break they need.

Kenneth’s hairstylists are gifting some of the basics through gift cards, so they can get that fresh start.

Out of Darkness offers the following tips on human trafficking:

Set a high standard of “love” within your home.

The way you define and express that you care helps shape your children’s self-image,confidence and opinions of future relationships

Establish trust and communication with your children from day one so they feel comfortable coming to you to talk.

Talk to your children about the dangers of social media

It’s important to provide practical safety tips such as not sharing personal information on the Internet. Do not accept Facebook requests from unknown people and never sharing inappropriate photos.

Teach children to understand what friendship means

Teach them a friend is not someone you met yesterday and that a “friend” on Facebook is not the same thing as a friendship

Monitor all online activity and cell phone use

As a parent you may feel this is an invasion of privacy but monitoring to whom your children are speaking is for their safety and protection. Question and monitor anyone who takes an unusual interest in your children. Although it may not always be possible, attend and be present at your children’s activities as much as possible. It’s important to know who your children are around on a regular basis. By being present, you will be able to identify an unfamiliar person and determine what their role is in your child’s everyday life.

Educate your children on human trafficking

This effort isn’t meant to scare your children, rather educate them on potential signs or situations to avoid.

Red Flags

  • an older boyfriend or new friends with a different lifestyle
  • sudden large amounts of cash or gifts
  • withdrawn/depressed/drugs
  • sexualized behavior

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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