STRONGSVILLE, Ohio — It’s a plague affecting millions around the world and close to home in Northeast Ohio: human trafficking.
On Wednesday in Strongsville Middle School’s auditorium, dozens of people met to learn what they should be looking for and how to keep their children from harm.
“With social media now, grooming and recruitment can happen behind a screen,” Alicia Ley from RAHAB Ministries, said. “The whole process can happen behind a screen.”
RAHAB Ministries is an organization that provides resources, like safe housing and hope, to survivors.
Ley says when she speaks at forums it isn’t to scare people, it’s to help them recognize what human trafficking really looks like.
“We have to stop being scared of the creepy white van at the Target that's going to come snatch your kid,” Ley said. “If that's what we think trafficking is, we're going to miss that these women and children are actually shopping at Target with us.”
Cheri Mooney, mother of a 13-year-old, says she’s constantly taking time to warn her child about the dangers of our society.
“It’s never too early to talk about this,” Mooney said, “Before they can walk, we should be telling them to stay close to their moms.”
Once they get older, she says, it’s time to be proactive about approaching safe social media practices.
“Constantly watch your kids' phones,” Mooney said. “Go on their social media, look and see who they're friends with, make sure their locations are off.”
“It’s much better to educate yourself than to pretend that it's not happening,” Sharon David, who also has teenagers, said.
If you would like to learn more about how to get involved with The Collaborative to End Human Trafficking, click here.
Currently, 60 businesses and organizations in Northeast Ohio have partnered with the Collaborative to develop best practices for law enforcement and the lodging industry.