BPW talks trafficking at January meeting

By Dawn Hatfield

DailyAdvocate.com

GREENVILLE — Greenville Business and Professional Women (BPW) met at 6:30 p.m on Jan. 13 at Darke DD for their monthly meeting. Catering was provided by Merchant House at a cost of $15 per attendee with a portion of proceeds being donated to Rustic Hope. Rustic Hope offers services, such as temporary housing, transportation, food, clothing, baby supplies, daycare, adoption information, post-abortive counseling, and parenting classes to single mothers before, during, and after delivery.

The BPW Publicity Committee with Peggy Foutz, Chair, and committee members, Peggy Emerson, Carol Marsh, Maria Moore, Joanna Pittenger, and Pam Sharp, hosted the January event. The highlight of the evening was guest speaker, Caitlin Miller, co-owner of Miller’s Flowers, and local voice against human trafficking. Miller has hosted safe house fundraisers for rescued victims in Ohio, served on an outreach team targeting strip clubs in Dayton, and hosted Human Trafficking Awareness trainings for the community. She serves in the children’s ministry at Vineyard Fellowship church in Bradford and also as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) in Darke County.

Miller began her presentation with the definition of human trafficking as “the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act,” which she equated to “modern day slavery.” Miller said many believe our country, and especially our region, are safe from such horrors; however, this could not be further from the truth. Millions of people (all ages, nationalities, gender, etc.) are trafficked each year, including right here in the United States. Ohio is actually the third-largest U.S. hub because, according to Miller, the abundance of interstates makes for easy escape. It’s estimated at least 3,300 victims are trafficked in Ohio each year. Locally, the Miller Lane area near interstates 75/70 is of serious concern.

Miller explained that our area is less subject to cases of abduction (only about two percent), and it is more common that family members sell or trade victims instead. The average victim’s age is 12 to 14. Sadly, trafficking has only increased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic as the National Human Trafficking Hotline has reported a 40 percent increase in calls. Without daily interactions at school and mandatory reporting by educators, more trafficking opportunities have arisen in recent years.

Links to child welfare systems, abortion, and pornography exist in the trafficking world. Approximately 70 percent of victims have a history with child welfare. The number of abortions increase as “handlers” will often force trafficked sex workers to end pregnancies so they can immediately return to “work.” Pornography also helps to fuel the industry and provides the demand for such services. In 2020, child rape and porn videos increased by 500 percent, according to Miller, and over half of trafficking victims report pornography was made of them while they were in bondage.

“Trafficking is a $99 billion industry, annually earning more than Nike and Starbucks combined,” stated Miller.

Miller explained that desensitization is a major public obstacle to overcome and that we should all be vigilant in reporting should we see warning signs. In her 15 years of work in this field, Miller has seen branding, tattoos, and jewelry with the “handler’s” name advertised on victims. She explained victims also may be unaware of the time, date, location; may wear inappropriate clothing for the weather; might have signs of physical abuse; often use multiple cell phones; share inconsistent personal stories/details; fail to maintain eye contact and often demonstrate low self-esteem/dependency issues; and may be accompanied by an older, controlling individual who may be referred to as a “boyfriend.”

If readers notice the above signs or suspect trafficking, they should call their local police department or contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733. The Oasis House (www.oasisforwomen.org) in Dayton, Gracehaven (www.gracehaven.me), and the SOAP Project (www.soapproject.org) are all organizations recommended by Miller should anyone wish to assist with counter-trafficking efforts.

For more information on human trafficking visit www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking.

The Greenville BPW mission is to achieve equity for all women in the workplace and to empower all women through advocacy, education, and information. To keep up with future events, please like and follow them on Facebook and Instagram at GreenvilleBPW.

To contact Daily Advocate Reporter Dawn Hatfield, email [email protected] or call 937-569-0066.