Our Backyard Slave Trade: The Result of Ohio's Failure to Enact Comprehensive State-Level Human-Sex-Trafficking Legislation

By Rocha, Priscila A. | Journal of Law and Health, Summer 2012 | Go to article overview

Our Backyard Slave Trade: The Result of Ohio's Failure to Enact Comprehensive State-Level Human-Sex-Trafficking Legislation


Rocha, Priscila A., Journal of Law and Health


I.    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)

I. INTRODUCTION

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. …

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