CLEVELAND -- An Ohio Attorney General's report says trafficking young people for sex is widespread.
"Human trafficking is happening out there, but no one is seeing it. No one is recognizing it, no one is reporting it," Attorney General Mike DeWine told WKYC, moments after his team's report was made public Wednesday afternoon.
DeWine's office coordinated a months-long, statewide study of the issue of Domestic Sex Trafficking in Ohio, interviewing more than 300 young people currently or formerly victimized by the human traffickers.
The study looked at the problem in eight Ohio cities. It offered seven recommendations to both fight the crime of sex trafficking and to identify and help victims. One of the recommendations is to get to the vulnerable youngsters on the street before the traffickers do.
"We know that within 72 hours of a teenager being out on the street they will be solicited for sex," says Karen McHenry, of Cleveland's Bellefaire JCB, which operates a Homeless Youth Program.
"It's crucial that we bring these kids in very quickly," she emphasized.
The Attorney General's report also calls for schools to join the effort, for people to learn the warning signs for at-risk youth, to reduce the stigma attached to being victimized, and to vigorously prosecute human traffickers.
"As a former prosecutor, I want to take it to the next step, which is to try to prosecute some of these individuals who are preying on these young kids," DeWine said.
His findings also call for treating the victims of the sex trafficking trade as exactly that, victims of a major crime.
Kara Porter of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center agrees that is a necessary component of battling the crime of human trafficking.
"The steps that are being taken are a trauma-centered approach to treating people who have been human trafficked. Because that's what it is, they have experienced an enormous trauma," Porter told WKYC.