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Ohio received a C grade on 2019 national sex trafficking report card

Posted: 5:31 PM, Nov 20, 2019
Updated: 2019-11-20 18:39:08-05

On an annual report card evaluating states' sex trafficking laws and prevention efficacy, Ohio has officially scored a "C" grade for 2019.

Shared Hope International, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, releases its annual 'Protected Innocence Challenge' state report cards, designed to grade states and incentivize them to improve their practices.

"If you look at Ohio, the laws are basically weak throughout," said Linda Smith, president of Shared Hope International.

According to the organization's latest research, only 13 states are worse than Ohio when it comes to addressing sex trafficking. Smith said Ohio is the only state that requires force, fraud or coercion to be proven for sex trafficking victims who are 16- or 17-years-old.

In every other state in the country, a child under the age of 18 is automatically considered a victim of human trafficking. In Ohio, those children have to prove they were victims.

The Ohio State Senate recently passed a bill that would, if ratified, change that law. The bill is before the Ohio State House now.

"The bill closes a significant gap in Ohio law that enables pimps to target 16- and 17-year-old children," said Senator Stephen Wilson, with Ohio Senate District 7.

In Cincinnati, Franciscan Ministries' Tamar Center helps women facing homelessness who were victims of sex trafficking. That organization said adult victims of sex trafficking can also slip through the cracks.

Estelle McNair, director of the Tamar Center, said most human trafficking victims are caught in the system as teenagers.

"They need someone to support them," said McNair. "Not just take them there, but walk with them. They need someone to take them, advocate for them and support them throughout that whole process."

The Tamar Center connects women with resources and services available to help them find a better path.

"We're on the ground level, so we're seeing where women, adult women, they're not a priority," said McNair.

Indiana and Kentucky both received "B" ratings in the Shared Hope International report card, but the organization criticized both states for allowing an age defense for people found to be purchasing sex. The organization said this allows defendants to potentially receive a lesser punishment by claiming they didn't know the victim was underage.