Toledo community leaders combat sex trafficking - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Toledo community leaders combat sex trafficking

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TOLEDO, Ohio – In a packed room at the United Way in Toledo, community members discuss the very real problem of sex trafficking. They are a part of the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition, meeting to discuss sex trafficking and its effect on their community.

"We have been paying attention," said Tasha Perdue, co-chair of the coalition. "We have been working on this issue and we aren't remaining quiet on it."

The group is made up of lawyers, counselors, researchers and community activists. All members are dedicated to caring for victims.

One of the members, Jane Ginter, is the program director at Daughter Project, a group home for women who have been trafficked.

"We're talking about kids, teenagers that need somebody to rescue them and say 'it's not okay, we're going to find you," Ginter said. "I don't care who you are, we're going to find you and put you somewhere where you're safe."

The group explains that preventing trafficking means finding a way to better search for missing children.

It is an organized group. Members take notes, and ask questions.

Megan Mattimoe is the Legal Advocacy Director at Ao, an organization that provides legal aid for victims of sex trafficking. She said it is important to talk to the victims, and help them through their trauma.

"I ask every single one of them, ‘if you were to graduate from high school or go on to college, what do you want to do?'" Mattimoe said. "And every one of them lights up and say ‘oh, I want to be a vet or I want to be a teacher or I want to be a nurse' none of them say ‘I want to keep doing this.'"

In Ohio, most victims are trafficked when they are between 14 and 15 years old. Victims are recruited at malls, juvenile centers, courthouses, and even at the homes of family and friends.

"I'm always astounded at the number of professionals it takes to replace one good, solid parent," Mattimoe said. "Probably 30 professionals for one good, solid parent – it's really astounding."

The group is fueling up for a fight that is happening on our streets every day; a human rights violation that leaders say must be stopped.

Purdue thinks part of putting an end to sex trafficking means changing society's view of women.

"Our society is sexualizing and objectifying girls and women and we're turning women into a commodity," she said.

The group's fight is far from over. Members say they know sex trafficking is not just happening in poor neighborhoods or with youth already at risk. All children are exposed and the mission to keep them safe continues.

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