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Human Trafficking Awareness Week to bring attention to important issue

January 20, 2015 | Events

Human trafficking is not something that is happening just in third world countries or outside the U.S. It’s a problem that affects juvenile victims in every state, city, and hometown.

“People are always so surprised to hear about what I do. They think juvenile human trafficking is only an international problem, which it is, but most of my clients are born and raised right here in Columbus. It happens in our own backyard every day. It is a problem very hidden in plain sight,” says Emily Dunlap ’14, the Greif Fellow in Juvenile Human Trafficking at the Moritz College of Law. “There was a sting last week in Worthington and Powell, in our suburbs. I have 14 year old girls who were born and raised in Ohio who find themselves trafficked.”

The Greif Fellowship was established in 2013 with grant funding from the Greif Packaging Charitable Trust. It was started to provide legal representation to juvenile victims of human trafficking. It also organizes local resources to combat trafficking in Columbus and Central Ohio as well as support victims.

As the Greif Fellow, Dunlap says she represents juveniles who have been flagged by the local courts or law enforcement as potential human trafficking victims. Under Ohio’s Safe Harbor Law she argues to have her clients’ charges held in abeyance while local agencies and organizations work to connect them with services and opportunities to rebuild their lives, instead of locking them away.

“If they come into court on charges of solicitation, loitering to solicit, or prostitution, or they come in on charges like theft, or trespassing, or truancy, or other charges and I can prove a correlation between their victimization and the charge, you can safe harbor those charges,” she explained. “I’ve been to court more times than I can count and I’m getting more hands-on legal opportunities than I think I would anywhere else my first year out of law school.”

While her clients are similar in the fact they are all juveniles, there is no typical client Dunlap deals with she says.

“Every client comes from a different background, is a different age, and has different circumstances that have led them into being a victim of human trafficking,” she said.

Some of the red flags that law enforcement and the courts may look for when trying to identify victims, however, include a long history of running away from home and prior abuse.

“That puts them in a vulnerable state. But I’m not going to say that necessarily means that every kid who runs away is a victim of human trafficking, but it is a red flag we look for,” Dunlap said.

As Human Trafficking Awareness Week approaches, Dunlap hopes the events planned will help the community realize that this isn’t just an international issue, but one that affects every state, city, and hometown.

“The fact that I still startle people when I tell them what I do means we need to keep talking about this issue,” she said.

For those interested in learning more about this issue, here is a list of events for the second annual Human Trafficking Awareness Week being held at Moritz and The Ohio State University School of Music.

Monday, Jan. 26

Noon: Information session on the Greif Fellowship in Juvenile Human Trafficking in the Public Service Law Center, located on the first floor. This program is devoted to providing legal representation and advice to child victims of human sex and labor trafficking in Ohio. Established in 2013 with grant funding from the Greif Packaging Charitable Trust, the one-year fellowship provides valuable experience early in an Ohio State law graduate’s career.

Wednesday, Jan. 28:

Noon: Panel discussion, “Navigating the Immigration System: Unaccompanied Minors,” sponsored by the Immigration Law Society and the Latino Law Student Association in Saxbe Auditorium. The event will feature immigration attorney Amy Bittner of Muchnicki & Bittner, LLP; Professor Kimberly Jordan of the Moritz Justice for Children Clinic; and two individuals who were themselves unaccompanied minors when they came to the United States. The discussion will focus on the legal issues surrounding the current surge of unaccompanied minors in the U.S. Lunch will be provided.

4 p.m.: Screening in Saxbe Auditorium of Very Young Girls, a documentary exposing the commercial sexual exploitation of girls in New York City as they are sold on the streets by pimps and treated as adult criminals by police. The film follows barely adolescent girls in real time, using vérité and intimate interviews, documenting their struggles and triumphs as they seek to exit the commercial sex industry. The film also uses startling footage shot by pimps themselves, giving a rare glimpse into how the cycle of exploitation begins for many women.

Thursday, Jan. 29:

8 p.m.: Screening of Very Young Girls at Weigel Hall, located at 1866 College Road. Detective Aaron Dennis and Michelle Hannan of the Salvation Army will debrief the audience after the film.

Friday, Jan. 30:

8 p.m.: Feature Performance by Rachel Lloyd and The Ohio State University Women’s Glee Club at Weigel Hall. At age 23, Rachel Lloyd founded Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS). Driven by the lack of services for trafficked girls and the incredible punishment they faced from service providers, law enforcement, the courts, family, and society, she has helped shift the perception of trafficked girls from criminals to victims, and now to survivors and leaders. GEMS is now the largest service provider of its kind in the nation providing intensive services and support to over 350 girls and young women, and preventive outreach and education to 1,500 youth. The Women’s Glee Club will present a sonic rendering of Rachel’s book Girls Like Us. Each chapter will be paired with a musical selection. The evening will finish with the keynote address given by Lloyd.

Saturday, Jan. 31:

9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: CF Festival Chorus held at Weigel Hall. Women of all ages are welcome to participate in the Concept: Freedom Festival Chorus. Rehearsal will begin at 9 a.m. and continue throughout the day, culminating in a performance at 4 p.m., which will be free and open to the public. In addition to musical collaboration, participants will have the option to attend interest sessions in the afternoon. Freedom a la Cart; Survivors Ink; She Has a Name; The Well; and Ohio State University faculty will all contribute to the conversation during those sessions. Cost to participate in the Festival Chorus is $20. Register online at http://music.osu.edu/festival-choir-registration before Jan. 19.

8 p.m.: UNCHAINED Fashion Show at Weigel Hall. UNCHAINED is a performance art fashion show designed to ignite abolitionists to the cause. It provides a holistic approach to activism by raising awareness, preventing recruitment among youth in schools, and working toward the restoration of survivors. Designed by Project Runway’s Korto Momolu, the collection was first purposed to celebrate women in the aftermath of the Liberian Civil War. For UNCHAINED, a narration shares the journey of a female human trafficking survivor from innocence to violation to restoration. Judge Paul M. Herbert, founder of the CATCH Court, will speak prior to the show’s start. The cost to attend is $10