Partnering with the Tuscarawas County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force

Toward the Goal Ministries has been a partner of the Tuscarawas County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force since it’s formation in the summer of 2016. God has laid human trafficking on my heart for years and yet I never knew what to do with it– it all seemed so overwhelming. I began to explore Rahab Ministries in Akron, a ministry reaching out to the broken women of the city of Akron, and went through their volunteer training. I served a few times but began to wonder if there was human trafficking occurring closer to home, in our county. After much prayer and with confirmation from the Lord I made a phone call to the Domestic Violence Shelter in Tuscarawas County. Yes, our county had a need. Yes, they were seeing victims. It just so happened, the director from the Children’s Advocacy Center was trying to spearhead a task force at that time and so I was given her contact information. We connected and she invited me to a meeting–  there were five of us that gathered in March of 2016 and we began to meet monthly. Several more joined the group and by the summer we were officially a task force. 

Today, there are twenty of us sitting around the table…. law enforcement, federal agents, counselors, social service providers, medical professionals, and more. Our focus is to bring training to professionals and formulate a collaborative response plan as victims are identified. As things continue to roll out, the scope of awareness will broaden to our community.

We stand in awe of how God moves.We at TTG believe that He’s breaking ground in our community, bringing light to the darkness and revealing His truth and unconditional, steadfast love to all of us. We feel called to be a part of that.

Common Myths About Human Trafficking

Myth: Human trafficking does not occur in the United States. It only happens in other countries.
Fact: The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports at least 100,000 American children a year are victimized through child sexual exploitation. Since 2007, the National Human Trafficking hotline, operated by Polaris, received reports of more than 4,800 labor trafficking cases inside the United States.

Myth: Sex trafficking exists because victims choose to participate.
Fact: Trafficking exists because there is a demand for sexual services, vulnerable people, and it is profitable for sex traffickers. In terms of sex trafficking victims, some initially enter the sex industry voluntarily, however many are tricked, coerced, forced into, and/or held under debt bondage within the industry (International Labor Organization).

Myth: Victims of trafficking are always looking for a way to escape and will reach out to anyone for help.

Fact: Victims of trafficking are unlikely to self-identify or disclose details regarding their situation to anyone, including law enforcement, healthcare workers, service providers, neighbors or community members. They fear retaliation by their trafficker and do not build trust easily with others. Because of the trauma bond with the trafficker formed by fear and abuse, they remain loyal and do not perceive themselves as victims (Shared Hope Int’l).

 Did you know?

Parents and family members may sell their children to sustain their drug addiction. In Tuscarawas County, 2014- Sept. 2016 there have been 347 cases of drug overdose (Tuscarawas Co Sherriff’s Office).

Human trafficking is a hidden crime. Tuscarawas County agencies have identified 11 trafficking victims since 2012- fall of 2016 (Tuscarawas Co. CAC, Compass Rape Crisis Center, PFCS), indicating there are many more who haven’t been identified and even more who are at risk.

Data collected from AkronCanton.Backpage.com (December 15, 2014-March 23, 2015) indicates Northeast Ohio has an existing commercial sex industry. Data indicates sex trafficking is occurring within the inner city but is more commonly occurring in the suburbs and rural areas near major highway systems. Dover and New Philadelphia were identified as locations of 26 advertisements listed on Backpage and 19 more were identified along Highway 77 (Akron/Canton Backpage Report).

Unaccompanied children are especially vulnerable to exploitation. The Office of Refugee Resettlement, from the fall of 2014-August 2016, reports that 170 unaccompanied minors have been placed in Tuscarawas County. After placement with sponsors, there is little follow-up. Sponsor information is often incorrect and sponsors are not vetted very well (Latino Cultural Connections).

Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal activity, second only to drug trafficking, generating more than 32 billion dollars annually (U.S. Dept of Justice). Traffickers see human trafficking as “low risk, high reward,” as they can only sell drugs once but a human being over and over.