Sex trafficking, by definition, is the practice of exploiting adults and children for use as commodities, or objects, in conditions of sexual and labor servitude. Although sex trafficking in past years had been pushed under the rug, it is time to talk about it.
There were 22,326 survivors of sexual assault in 2019. A number that should not even exist managed to reach more than 20,000 last year.
In the U.S., 24.9 million people are victims of forced labor; of those, 4.8 million are forced into performing sexual acts.
In 2020 alone, Ohio has a rate of 3.83 out of every 100,000 facing sex trafficking, making it earn a spot on the list of top 10 states for trafficking. With those statistics, it is not hard to see that this is a problem.
Athens isn’t immune to this problem. In 2014, a 70-year-old Chauncey man paid money and drugs to have sex with a 16-year-old girl. Six years ago may seem like a lifetime away, but it doesn’t stop there. This, unfortunately, was only one of the cases.
In 2019, a Nelsonville man was charged with human trafficking, rape and pornography involving a minor in Athens County. Sex trafficking obviously hits close to home, wherever home may be.
Additionally, sexual assaults continue to be an ongoing issue at Ohio University every single year. We’ve just left the red zone, a time in the Fall Semester when 50% of sexual assaults occur. The numbers may be down due to COVID-19, but it will continue to be a problem when normal campus life resumes.
How do we protect ourselves when there could be danger right in front of us?
Educate yourself on the reality of what can happen. Accept that this can happen to anyone. Just because the area you live in is nice or you feel safe in your community does not mean the risks are any lower.
Attend meetings or ceremonies that intend to raise awareness and shine light on the reality of the situations. Ohio University, on Jan. 28, hosted a showing of A Thousand Hands A Million Stars, followed by a panel answering questions on human trafficking. This performance showed survivors struggle through and out of sex trafficking. With that being said, the first step always is raising awareness.
Learn the indicators of human trafficking. If someone or something looks illicit, make sure you know if you need to intervene. Call if you have suspicion that someone you know may be involved or if you are in danger. The National Human Trafficking Hotline is 1-888-373-7888.
You can also carry around things to protect yourself. Pepper spray is the most common because it proves to be a reliable method of protection, and they’re easily concealed.
Phone trackers can also be an effective way to keep you and your friends safe. Find my iPhone, Find My Friends and Life360 are all popular trackers on iPhones. These apps are used to share your location with friends and family. Having one could save your life.
Blue Light Boxes are posted on Ohio University’s campus and campuses all around the U.S. These phones are made for reporting issues to the campus police. More information on how to stay safe on Ohio University’s campus can be found here.
Make an impact and be an influence. Join student organizations that fight against sex trafficking. Ohio University has student organizations, such as Better Bystander. This student organization aims to educate people how to intervene in order to prevent sexual violence.
Although the majority of college students are not currently on campus, there will be a day when there are again. Prepare now to prepare yourself for these unfortunate, yet real situations.
Use your voice, stay aware and stay safe.
Kayla Bennett is a freshman studying journalism. Please note that the views and ideas of columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk to Kayla? Tweet her @kkayyben.