CLEVELAND — In 2019, the state of Ohio had 450 documented cases of human trafficking, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
To address the ongoing issue, WKYC Studios partnered with the Collaborative to End Human Trafficking for a panel discussion held on Thursday night. In its ninth year, the awareness forum was moderated by 3News Investigates' Reporter Marisa Saenz.
The panel discussed Ohio’s failing grade in its fight against human trafficking. The state was given an "F" on the Shared Hope International’s child and youth sex trafficking report card.
Panelists also talked about their efforts to improve services and access to justice for trafficking survivors, in addition to other issues.
One of the panelists was Alicia Ley, a human trafficking survivor who now works as program coordinator at the Collaborative. Ley was trafficked by a family member and at age 14 was sold in middle-class homes and hotels.
“I think it’s important to continue to have a panel because vulnerable people are still being exploited and brought and sold for sex within Northeast Ohio," says Ley. “So I guess until that ends, it’s going to be an important message to bring about education and awareness.”
According to a report by the University of Cincinnati there were 1,032 known human trafficking victims in Ohio in 2019.
“We want to give people an understanding of what trafficking actually looks like on a local and domestic level. It is an issue that feels so large and big, “says Ley. “But there really are some tangible takeaways, I believe that every citizen in Northeast Ohio can participate in.”
In addition to Ley, the other panelists included:
- Kirsti Mouncey, President & CEO of the Collaborative to End Human Trafficking
- Detective John Morgan with the Cuyahoga County Human Trafficking Taskforce
- Dr. Martina Moore of Moore & Moore Counseling (works with all survivors that go through the diversion dockets in the courts)
- Karen McHenry, Program Manager for Missing and Homeless Youth, Bellefaire JCB
- Gulnar Feerasta – Director of Programs, LGBT Community Center Greater Cleveland.
You can watch Thursday's forum below:
*Editor's Note: The video in the player above is from a previous report.