AAUW Medina County has been in the forefront of creating awareness of this issue, both in programming to inform residents of the pervasive problem and in the formation of the Medina County Coalition Against Human Trafficking.
We maintain a membership in the Coalition, have representatives at its meetings and programs and actively work to support its mission.
This year’s Human Trafficking Awareness Workshop was held January 25 at the Comfort Inn & Suites, Wadsworth. Dr.Tanisha L. Knighton, independent consultant and national trainer from Cleveland, was the guest presenter. Her experience with missing children, with the courts and law enforcement enabled her to share a view of human trafficking from the inside. Frank and at times “unsettling”, she brought this ever-growing industry to light with photos, headlines and terminology. About 85 persons representing counselors, court officers, social workers, attorneys, EMT workers, law enforcement and volunteers, attended the half-day session.
The Medina Coalition Against Human Trafficking held its 2017 Awareness Workshop on April 20. Attending were over 100 teachers, social workers, EMT personnel, persons in law enforcement and other interested members of the community. Carol Thombs and Pat Chaloupek represented AAUW; Thombs is also a member of the Coalition and serves as SOAP chair, making sure that area motels are regularly visited with updates on missing children and furnishing them with mini bars of soap imprinted with the HT hotline.
Keynote speaker was Rachel Kaisk, a survivor who was trafficked from the Barberton area when she was a teenager. A need for love and attention led her into being trafficked, one of the conditions that makes teens susceptible to this crime. She gave a frank overview of her bondage and emphasized that the three ingredients for trafficking are greed, demand and vulnerability.
Important to her recovery was support and counseling given by the Renee Jones Empowerment Center on Cleveland’s west wide. Founder Renee Jones also addressed the workshop, emphasizing that “awareness saves lives.” The biggest needs for victims are a safe place to go and peer support and counseling. The Center provides a variety of therapies–including horse therapy–and support groups which are similar to AA programs. “It is a lifetime program,” Jones said, “helping people to learn how to live normal lives again.” Included is prevention, education and awareness, court advocacy and supervision to help victims.
In 2016, the Coalition sponsored the half-day “Human Trafficking Workshop: Freeing the Modern Slaves,” featuring Theresa Flores, author, advocate and human trafficking survivor. She spoke on how teens are targeted and get caught in the business of sexual slavery. She also discussed the origin of the S.O.A.P. Program (Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution) which she conceived as a hands-on outreach program to fight sex trafficking at large events and in communities. We learned how teams in our area are working to disperse information and bars of soap with contact information for the Sex Trafficking Hot Line at hotels and motels.