CINCINNATI - For many of us, the image of prostitution is women in tight clothes soliciting men for sex on dirty back streets.
But a new report out from the Ohio Attorney General's office paints a far bigger picture.
"It's everywhere," said Erin Meyer, who had a hand in collecting the data for Cincinnati's share of the problem.
Meyer is the Anti-Human Trafficking Program Manager for the Salvation Army. She says prostitution can be found not just in massage parlors and on the street, but in factories, restaurants and hotels.
The study interviewed 328 people who were or are currently involved in Ohio's illegal sex trade.
Of that number, 115 became involved when they were under 18, often when they were still in middle school.
"Traffickers prey on vulnerabilities," she said, "Sometimes youth is in itself a vulnerability that traffickers exploit."
Meyer suggested we check out Lower Price Hill, where she says residents are all too familiar with prostitutes, whether they want to be or not.
"Prostitution is so bad that you can't go outside," said one resident, who gave her name as "Jennifer."
"You have mothers and daughters who are well known prostitutes, that walk the streets together," she said. "And (the customers) will have their choice out of the mother or the two daughters or the mother and the daughter."
None of the Lower Price Hill neighbors interviewed for this story would give their full names, or agree to be photographed because they say the sex traders are their neighbors.
"We grew up with them," said an 18-year-old who called himself "Dougie." We know them our whole lives."
To a person, they all take issue with one finding in Erin Meyer's data: 90 percent of women in prostitution are under the control of a pimp.
"There ain't no pimps down here," said Dougie.
"Drugs is what's causing them to go out there," said Jennifer.
Police Neighborhood Liason Sgt. Steven Ventre has been on the streets of Lower Price Hill for 20 years.
"The girls down here don't have pimps," he said. "The pimp is heroin."
Meyer stands by her data, and says those who manipulate others in the sex trade are skilled at staying in the shadows.
"It is really changing the perceptions of the community to understand what trafficking really is," she said.
To see the report go to: http://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/traffickingreport.
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