Strongsville forum will address human trafficking

Sex and labor trafficking can happen anywhere, and often happens in plain sight. Knowing what to look for may save the life of a victim – maybe a teenager who you know.

The Rotary Club of Strongsville, in cooperation with the Collaborative to End Human Trafficking, will host its Third Annual Community Forum on Human Trafficking on Wednesday, November 13, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Strongsville Middle School. The free educational event is geared toward adults and teens.

Contrary to what many people believe, human trafficking – a multi-billion dollar criminal activity – doesn’t only happen in remote countries or large cities. And it usually doesn’t involve snatching victims off the street like it does in the movies. Most often, clever predators manipulate victims into situations in which they become physically and/or emotionally controlled and are unable to escape.

Human trafficking is happening in towns all over Cuyahoga County, said Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Marilyn B. Cassidy, who oversees a special docket for human trafficking cases and is one of the featured speakers at the forum.

Speakers will discuss the current state of human trafficking activity in Greater Cleveland and what parents, teens and other community members can do to help prevent it.

Judge Cassidy will explain how the specialized docket for human trafficking survivors works to help them recover and transition toward normal lives by providing trauma counseling, housing, addiction recovery services and other support services.

She also will talk about bringing consumers to justice and arresting and prosecuting traffickers.

Alicia Ley, senior director of safe housing at Rahab Ministries, of Fairlawn, will discuss:

  • What is human trafficking and what does it actually look like right here in Northeast Ohio?
  • What is Rahab doing to combat this form of modern day slavery?
  • What can you do to be a part of the solution?

Along with other services for sex trafficking victims, Rahab operates a juvenile safe house for females between the ages of 11 and 17.

Dave Frattare, commander of the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, and Kathleen Caffrey, statewide outreach coordinator for ICAC, will discuss:

  • Tools and knowledge to protect yourself and your children from the dangers of the Internet, mobile apps, sharing personal information and online interactions;
  • The the dangers of popular Internet sites and mobile apps, problem areas and potential red flags;
  • Cyberbullying and sexting, and the consequences associated with these dangerous trends.

Social media sites – accessible to any kid with a cell phone – have become the main recruiting tools for child sex traffickers, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) warns.

“Traffickers will often seize any available opportunity to seek out a potential victim, including in-person tactics at malls, bus stops, walking to and from school and outside of group homes,” according to an NCMEC fact sheet. “However, the majority of traffickers now recruit children online through social networking apps and sites, and use the information obtained through these methods to relate to and build trust with children more quickly.”

The forum is free and all are invited. The information is targeted to parents and adolescents, but because of the mature subject matter, parents should use their discretion about bringing young children.

The Strongsville Rotary is one of more than 40 organizations that are a part of the Collaborative’s Greater Cleveland’s Coordinated Response to Human Trafficking, which includes law enforcement, healthcare, social service, religious groups and business organizations who are working together to provide a safety net in northeast Ohio for those victimized by this crime.

The forum is organized by the Strongsville Rotary in partnership with the Collaborative, the Strongsville City Schools, the Strongsville Police Department, the Strongsville Fire Department and the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

The free public forum will be held on Wednesday, November 13, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at Strongsville Middle School, 13200 Pearl Road, Strongsville, Ohio 44136.

For more information, contact Ken McEntee or Jeff Ellis.

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