Human Trafficking Initiative
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HTI Team & Commission

Human Trafficking Initiative

Leaders & contacts
  • Carol O'Brien, Chief Counsel
    CAROL O’BRIEN | Chief Counsel

    O’Brien oversees the departments of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office that focus on law enforcement and criminal justice. Among them is the Human Trafficking Initiative. Before joining the office, she spent eight years as Delaware County prosecutor.

    Carol.O'Brien@OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov
  • JENNIFER RAUSCH, Legal Director
    JENNIFER RAUSCH | Legal Director

    As legal director for the Human Trafficking Initiative, Jennifer Rausch focuses on education and assisting task forces and prosecutors with building better cases. She previously led the Special Victims Unit at the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office.

    Jennifer.Rausch@OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov
  • JOMEL AIRD, Director of Victim Services
    JOMEL AIRD | Director of Victim Services

    Jomel Aird focuses on connecting and strengthening human trafficking services throughout the state. Before joining the initiative, she worked as a victim advocate with the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force and Salvation Army, as well as the Palm Beach County’s State Attorney’s Office.

    Jomel.Aird@OhioattorneyGeneral.gov
  • Carol O'Brien, Chief Counsel
    EMILY BILLMAN | Anti-Human Trafficking Coordinator

    Emily Billman helps identify gaps in victim services and spreads awareness across the state. The 2019 graduate of Miami University also has led street outreach teams in Columbus for Out of Darkness, an anti-trafficking organization.

    Emily.Billman@OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov
Partners

Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Commission

This commission, which includes a diverse membership of law enforcement officers, social service providers, academic experts and government partners, works collaboratively and comprehensively to enhance Ohio’s response to human trafficking. It compiles information, makes recommendations and meets quarterly.

OOCIC

The Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission, led by the attorney general, forms special task forces by teaming up local law enforcement agencies to fight organized crime in Ohio. Multiple task forces target human trafficking. In 2019, those task forces arrested more than 200 people, rescued 120 human trafficking victims and referred almost 250 more to services.

OPOTA

The Ohio Peace Office Training Academy, part of the Attorney General’s Office, trains law enforcement officers to both identify and investigate cases of human trafficking throughout Ohio. All new peace officers have been required to participate in an OPOTA-approved course on the topic since the state’s Safe Harbor Law was enacted in 2012.

BCI

The Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation processes evidence from human trafficking cases across the state, has agents and intelligence gatherers who investigate such cases (including crimes against children) and helps put together prostitution stings. BCI also is responsible for compiling human trafficking data from local agencies once a year, numbers that are reported in the Ohio Attorney General’s Annual Report on Human Trafficking.

Legislative initiatives

Our understanding of human trafficking dynamics has evolved. Where once those engaged in prostitution were regarded solely as lawbreakers, it is now overwhelmingly understood that many have experienced victimization. The criminals are the people who exploit them, whether they are the customers who buy sex or those who supply that demand. Attorney General Yost and the Human Trafficking Initiative are working to update Ohio’s law to match society’s new understanding.

Bills stemming from our proposals:

As of July 2020

134th General Assembly (January 2021-December 2022)

  • Receiving Proceeds of Prostitution: Prohibits a person from receiving money, or anything else of value, from a prostitute engaging in sexual activity and makes it a felony-level offense. The bill also adds “receiving proceeds of prostitution” to the list of crimes that can warrant RICO charges.

    The point: This change in law would help officers charge pimps.

    Status: Introduced as HB276 by Reps. Jena Powell and Jean Schmidt
     

133rd General Assembly (January 2019-December 2020)

A big win: Important measures were signed into law as part of the Protect Trafficked Minors Act (House Bill 431), which went into effect April 12, 2021. The changes include:

  • The separation of the “soliciting” charge so that johns and human trafficking victims no longer face the same punishment for engaging in commercial sex. Buyers will now be subject to enhanced penalties, including “john school” to drive home the role they play in the demand side of exploitation and sex trafficking.

  • An expansion of protections for 16- and 17-year-old trafficking victims, to match how younger victims are treated in the court process.

Human Trafficking Commission

About the Commission

The Ohio Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Commission works with the Human Trafficking Initiative team and its partners to develop methods for ending human trafficking. The commission meets quarterly and includes mission-focused subcommittees:

  • Demand Reduction
  • Healthcare
  • Law Enforcement
  • Legal and Legislative
  • Research/Gap Analysis and Data
  • Public Awareness
  • Victim Services

In late 2019, Attorney General Dave Yost reconvened the Ohio Human Trafficking Commission, which originated under Attorney General Richard Cordray and then was reconstituted by Attorney General Mike DeWine.

Yost additions

The new commission added a healthcare subcommittee for the first time and brought a vital voice into the conversation: survivors of human trafficking. These Advisory Council Ambassadors ensure that those with lived experience inform and impact the work being done through the Human Trafficking Commission.

Subcommittees

Victim Services Subcommittee

The Victim Service Subcommittee recommends best practices for human trafficking programs looking to enact standards and practices that are culturally sensitive and trauma-responsive. Through advocacy, leadership and accountability, the subcommittee also emphasizes diverse representation in the field and the historically marginalized voices of human trafficking survivors. Goals include developing a statewide service matrix and strengthening Ohio’s response to labor trafficking.

Legal and Legislative Subcommittee

The Legal and Legislative Subcommittee’s purpose is two-fold: first, to evaluate Ohio’s current laws on human trafficking, how those laws are implemented and what legal training is available; and second, to focus on what changes and legal trainings could improve the state’s response to human trafficking.

Public Awareness Subcommittee

The Public Awareness Subcommittee provides guidance to state residents and anti-trafficking coalitions to increase knowledge about human trafficking in general, myths and misconceptions, and resources.

Healthcare Subcommittee

The Healthcare Subcommittee aims to improve care of victims by promoting trauma-informed practices and increasing medical professionals’ awareness of trafficking. Goals include improving data collection, including through a pilot program at a small number of hospitals.

Research/Gap Analysis and Data Subcommittee

The Research/Gap Analysis and Data Subcommittee seeks to identify areas in which better data can improve Ohio’s response to human trafficking. Methods include searching out gaps or inconsistencies in data collected, establishing criteria for what makes credible data and examining current databases to see how collection and dissemination can be improved.

Demand Reduction Subcommittee

The Demand Reduction Subcommittee seeks to decrease social and legal tolerance for human exploitation, including shifting behaviors and values among Ohio’s population and, in particular, men, who drive the vast majority of demand for sex trafficking. Other goals include supporting passage of relevant legislation, encouraging supply chain transparency to ensure state and private services are not bolstered by forced labor or child labor, and growing a network of actors to collectively push demand reduction.

Law Enforcement Subcommittee

The Law Enforcement Subcommittee focuses on issues that affect how Ohio’s peace officers encounter and take on human trafficking. Goals include addressing trafficking issues within the hotel and lodging industry in Ohio; exploring how to improve trafficking-related data collection; and obtaining trauma-informed interview training for all human trafficking investigators in the state.