By Bethany J. Royer
PIQUA — As the month of January comes to a close so too does National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention month but not the importance of its message of awareness.
“It’s awareness, that’s all we’re trying to do,” explained Leesa Baker, executive director for the Piqua YWCA, the latter having partnered with the Piqua police department to bring information to the public on the travesty that is human trafficking. The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of persons for the purpose of a commercial sex act, labor or services, either by force, fraud or coercion.
However, awareness is only part of the plan, the next step is bringing aid to the victims.
In the past, victims were often viewed as part of the cause behind the crime, viewed as prostitutes and falling into the penalties of the law. Today resources are not only being utilized to bring awareness of the problem and educate those who may fall victim to human trafficking, but getting help after the fact for the victims.
“If we can have some resources and be able to turn it over to save a life, that’s pretty ideal,” said Bruce Jamison, chief of police, of the hope for a specifically designated task force to aid victims through a recovery and restore process. While some larger cities have the means and financial backing to offer this, Piqua has yet to be able to provide this service. The local group still in the infant stages of bringing awareness while working towards a partnership for recovery.
Though there are victim services according to Jamison, those of human trafficking have an especially lengthy recovery and restore process, beginning with the double-edge sword of reporting their victimization.
“It took her years to finally come out and say what happened,” said Baker of Theresa Flores who, as a middle-class teenager, fell victim to human trafficking via coercion and force over the course of two years.
Flores is not only a survivor but shares her story of being a victim of human trafficking and slavery through books, public speaking and as a founder of SOAP — Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution.
S.O.A.P. distributes bars of soap with the National Human Trafficking hotline number (888/373-7888) to high-risk motels or during what the group’s website states is “high demand” events such as the “Super Bowl, NCAA Final Four, and the Indy 500” among others. This includes Mumford & Sons having visited Troy over the summer with the United Methodist of Troy “soaping” the area in coalition with the YWCA, according to Baker. The combination of a bar of soap and a phone number being the potential key to getting help for victims during what Flores herself experienced, the only comfort being a bar of soap after her ordeals.
“They are afraid to say anything,” continued Baker as Jamison shared a chilling example of the double-edge sword many victims face.
“There’s always a guilt factor whether there should be or shouldn’t be,” explained Jamison of a rape victim who was doing nothing more than walking from her place of work to her car. How she felt guilty after being attacked for not having her keys in her hand and thus feeling she was at blame for having failed to protect herself. The double-edge sword being that while preached to take precaution and even when they do are still attacked, “They are probably less likely (to report) due to the guilt.”
For Jamison, who has dealt with sex-related domestic issues over the years, says, “That’s the kind of stuff we’re struggling with,” getting victims to report.
For more information on S.O.A.P. visit www.traffickfree.com
Bethany J. Royer may be reached at 773-2721 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall