TOLEDO (13abc Action News) – More than 100,000 hair stylists and nail technicians in Ohio are now required to take a course in human trafficking.
In order to keep their license, they have to watch a video about the modern day slave trade and pass a quiz.
13abc spoke with cosmetologists in Toledo, a city known as one of the largest hot-spots for human trafficking in the country.
Beginning this year, if you want to work in a hair or nail salon you need to take the course in human trafficking online.
The goal is to spot potential victims: customers and even co-workers who may be suffering in plain sight.
Salons across Toledo are places of beauty and conversation.
"It's kind of as if I'm a psychiatrist,” says LaVauna Nickerson, a hair stylist at Nevaeh Salon and Spa on Reynolds Road.
Employees sometimes hear confessions of problems or abuse.
"We are very close in contact with our clients, so our clients open up to us and trust us and share things with us that they might not share with other people,” says Tina Hartland, a hair stylist at Beauty Bar on West Central Avenue.
New this year, employees are being trained to look out for quiet, nervous behavior.
All licensed cosmetologists in Ohio are required to take a course to spot signs of human trafficking – both labor and sex slaves who are controlled by force or fear.
"It's sickening, very sickening,” says Rochelle Fletcher, the owner of Rochelle’s House of Beauty on Collingwood Boulevard.
Fletcher has already watched the 45-minute video required by the Ohio Board of Cosmetology. It reminded her of a past customer and the adults with her.
"They were more relaxed and she was a little shaky,” says Fletcher. “I did ask her some questions and it was like she couldn't say something."
"The average age of being trafficked is right around 13 years of age which is an awful thing to think,” says Jeff Wilbarger, Director of the Daughter Project, an organization which runs a recovery home in Wood County for survivors. He welcomes the new state training.
"They have a great opportunity to potentially rescue some girls because these girls very often don't have very much freedom, but the pimps or the traffickers are going to want the girls to look pretty and this is the place that they'll take them,” says Wilbarger.
"I was more surprised it has become state mandated, but I am glad that we are all able to help,” says LaVauna Nickerson at Nevaeh Salon and Spa on Reynolds Road.
"I took the test and passed it afterwards, but I don't feel all hair salons are involved in this type of thing going on right now,” says Kevin Haddad, former Sylvania Township Trustee and owner of Kevin Haddad Design Group on Monroe Street.
Haddad says he learned that employees at some nail salons are often victims.
"These girls that are doing the nails, a lot of times they're brought over to this country with the promise of a job,” says Wilbarger. “It’ll be a nail salon in the front, but in the back there’s other things going on, sometimes it’s drugs, sometimes it’s trafficking.”
Christopher H. Logsdon, the Executive Director of the Ohio Board of Cosmetology, cites two instances of potential human trafficking hubs or hiding places “from 2010 that were related to nail salons."
"There is nothing in these salons where they're run by local people where they would do any type of that business whatsoever,” says Haddad.
All licensed cosmetologists in Ohio need to go through the training by 2017.
Trainees are taught to look for the signs of Human Trafficking, which includes:
• Poor mental health or abnormal behavior
• Is fearful. Anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
• Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
• Avoids eye contact
• Poor physical health
• Lacks health care
• Appear malnourished
• Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture
• Demonstrates a lack of control
• Has few or no personal possessions
• Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
• Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
• Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)
• May claim just visiting and is unable to clarify where he/she is staying/address
• Demonstrates a lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or does not know what city he/she is in
• Loss of sense of time
• Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story
Signs of Trafficking in Children:
• Inconsistencies in stories
• References to working long hours and getting poor pay under abusive bosses
• Look at demeanor, affect and appearance
• Unusual knowledge of work
• Fearful or anxious behavior
• Presence of a controlling, abusive or older boyfriend
• Possession of gifts/cash that can’t be explained
• Chronic runaways
• Recurrent STI’s/STD’s and/or need for pregnancy tests
• Signs of physical assault including: branding or tattooing, broken bones, black eyes, etc.
To report a trafficking tip, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline Resources Center at 1-888-373-7888. It is a national, toll-free hotline, available to answer calls from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year.