If you think that your rural zip code makes you immune to human trafficking, think again. The same factors that foster drug use and trafficking in the county promote the horrific underground industry that is human trafficking.
In an effort to increase awareness of this issue, the Starkey Fund for Youth and American Association of University Women (AAUW) have committed to sponsor a series of programs targeting Pickaway County high schools.
On March 27, Logan Elm High School students, faculty and staff heard Theresa Flores present her story on human trafficking. Flores' experience as a survivor of human trafficking is the primary subject of her presentation to youth. Her story is documented in her book, "The Slave Across The Street." Flores has worked extensively with Ohio Legislators and the the Attorney General's office to implement effective laws and strategies to combat human trafficking. Her organization, Saving Our Adolescents from Prostitution (SOAP), has provided a hotline for reporting trafficking and help to those caught in it.
The Starkey Fund for Youth provides funding for services and activities designed to significantly impact the lives of Pickaway County youth. The fund was created by Ralph Starkey within the Pickaway County Community Foundation and is administered by Beth Starkey-Hill.
"This program fits very well in to the criteria for the Starkey Fund," Starkey-Hill said. "With their increased awareness, youth are enabled to make better decisions for themselves and make a difference with their peers. This is the third area high school to engage in the discussion about human trafficking. We are committed to bringing this program to all the county high schools."
AAUW is involved because one of their national goals is the protection of human rights. Human trafficking, largely but not exclusively, affects women.
"The local chapter of AAUW became actively involved with this issue when our national leadership identified human trafficking as a priority," said Sereana H. Dresbach, representative from Circleville AAUW. "We made the commitment to bring this message to this area because Ohio is ranked fifth in the nation for trafficking activity. We specifically want Theresa to tell her story because her story could be any child from our county, and that is what resonates with the audience. She answered students' questions in a straightforward manner."
The school program was preceded by a productive session with Sheriff Robert D. Radcliff and Judge Jan Michael Long with Flores. Their discussion focused on local efforts, strategies and current events. The product of the morning session was possible training for professionals across disciplines who may encounter or suspect human trafficking.