Traffic in Our City

I’ve been attempting to clean up my computer and came across some articles I’ve written for classes. I thought I would just randomly post the ones that I liked. Enjoy.

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A family dropped everything they knew to help people they didn’t know, all because of an episode on Dateline. After the program ended, James Pond said he went to say sweet dreams to his youngest daughter with tears in his eyes. “It had struck me that hundreds of thousands of children would never have sweet dreams. We had to do something,” said Mr. Pond, “This was just the difference we all wanted to make.”

Moving from California to Cambodia to building roots in Cincinnati, James and Athena Pond and their 3 children made a decision that they were going to fight against sex trafficking. James and Athena Pond founded Transitions Global, a non-profit organization in Cincinnati that works to rescue and heal survivors of sex trafficking.

The Ponds are among a growing number of Cincinnati residents struck by the issue of sex trafficking and taking action against it. According to the Polaris Project, a leading organization in the U.S combating human trafficking, Ohio is in the top 12 states in the U.S for the highest sex trafficking numbers.

Dr. Sharlene Lassiter-Boltz, a professor at Northern Kentucky University, and a member of Partnership Against Trafficking Humans, PATH, said “Human trafficking is the second largest money-maker worldwide, second to drug trafficking.”

PATH has its own chapter in the Northern Kentucky area and seeks to increase awareness and increase the number of identified, rescued, and protected sex trafficking victims.

Dr. Jill Shelley, also professor at NKU, has worked in the Cincinnati police force for over ten years and says that in the last year there were 198 sex trafficking convictions in Ohio that involved mostly children.

“Anyone under the age of 18 who has been sexually exploited through “prostitution” is a trafficking victim. For victims over 18 it involves force, fraud or coercion as well, but most victims who are over 18 were brought in while they were minors or otherwise exploited as minors,” said Mrs. Pond.

Lassiter-Boltz said that she believes people need to become further educated about sex trafficking, because they need to be aware of what is happening around them. “This needs to be a priority,” says Shelley, “people are unaware of sex trafficking. Most Americans have the impression that it’s a foreign problem. I doubt that very few people know the real extent.”

Although Transitions Global has had more focus out of the country, Mr. Pond said, that he would like to open a domestic trafficking shelter here in the United States. “ There are an estimated 300,000 American children who are being sexually exploited,” said Mr. Pond.

While watching the Dateline special, “Children for Sale”, the entire Pond family with tears in their eyes had a feeling they needed to do something, or their whole lives would be hypocritical, said Mr. Pond. The Dateline special spotlighted the sex trade in Cambodia and the efforts to stop it.

Shelley said that it is extremely important to raise awareness about sex trafficking since it is a big problem in Ohio, and Toledo has ranked in the top 5 cities with the largest sex trafficking numbers.

“Sex trafficking is hard for the police department to address,” said Shelley, “any trafficking cases are often mistreated as prostitution cases or are put off as something else.”

Shelley said, that the government and police need more training, education, and aggressive reinforcement so trafficking cases can be discovered and treated for what they really are.

On December 1, 2010, the Ohio Senate passed Senate Bill 235 to make Human Trafficking a stand-alone felony in Ohio. Shelley said the bill would only help if there is training for officers on all levels and that they push for action. “It’s one thing to have a law in the books, but if you don’t push it, it won’t do any good,” said Shelley.

Trafficking is growing, and awareness needs to grow faster. However, “it’s only important if actions follow it,” said Athena Pond, “there are real people on the other side of this and awareness does not help them unless the people who are aware do something to help them.”

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