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Criminal Justice Update

Q&A: Jennifer Rausch, Legal Director of the Attorney General's Human Trafficking Initiative


Jennifer Rausch, legal director of the attorney general's Human Trafficking Initiative

What does your new job entail? 

The attorney general has set four priorities to fight human trafficking, and it’s my job to help him accomplish them. They are: 
  • Focusing on prevention and education to stop some of the inflow of victims.
  • Creating legislative policy to make sure Ohio is doing what it can to fight trafficking. 
  • Assisting and training task forces and prosecutors to build human trafficking cases and developing more task forces in the state. 
  • Streamlining victim services so that victims don’t have to go to so many different places to get the help they need.
Even though it was sort of scary to leave the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, where I basically grew up, I love those goals, so I’m excited to build this new initiative.

How did your work at the prosecutor’s office prepare you?

I worked there for 19 years, starting in law school. I worked in the Special Victims Unit for 15 years, and I was the (unit) director for six years. We handled child sexual assaults, online exploitation of children, child abuse and child homicide cases, domestic homicide and human trafficking. We figured out, through trial and error, how to develop a better response to human trafficking and how to work those cases. I’ve been handling human trafficking cases on the ground for seven years.   

What do you hope to accomplish with the AG’s human trafficking initiative?

My hope is we can make a better safety net for victims so they can exit dangerous situations. That’s such a huge part of it — getting victims to a place where they have access to help and they’re willing to take the help. That’s the specialty of my new colleague Jomel Aird.

I love training and teaching, and so I’m excited to share the things I’ve learned while trying and indicting trafficking cases. Just as much, I want to learn from other people who handle these cases throughout the state. We all want to get a better court response.

And then I want to help task forces build the strongest cases possible. It’s hard to convince victims to cooperate if they’re worried about us not being successful and their trafficker getting right back out of jail.  

What legislative plans do you have?

The attorney general is pushing to separate the sale of sexual services from the buying, and that would be a great start to decrease demand. 

I’d also like to push to get a felony strangulation statute in Ohio. Forty-eight other states have one. 

The law would make strangling someone a felony of a third degree — traffickers have a lot of control through physical violence — and it would give prosecutors one more felony to charge in these cases. So many times we’re focused on the human trafficking charge — and we should be — but there are more charges we can pursue to ensure victims get justice for everything that happened to them.

What first got you interested in a career in criminal justice? 

I always wanted to be a lawyer, but in college I volunteered with the Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio as a helpline advocate and a hospital advocate. Once I discovered there was a specialized unit at the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office that would allow me to pursue both passions, I knew that’s where I was meant to be. I loved my time there, but am excited to join the AG team.

Bio box 

Hometown: Columbus 

Family: married with a 13-year-old son  

Education: graduated in 1999 from The Ohio State University with a double major in political science and history; graduated in 2002 from the OSU Moritz College of Law

Previous roles: Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office: director, Special Victims Unit, 2013-August 2019; assistant prosecuting attorney, Special Victims Unit, 2004-13; assistant prosecuting attorney, Grand Jury Unit, 2004; assistant prosecuting attorney, Juvenile Division, 2003-04; special assistant U.S. attorney, 2013-present