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 we regarded prostitutes as lawbreakers responsible for their crimes, we now understand that, overwhelmingly, they are victims. The criminals are the people who exploit them, whether they are the customers who buy sex or the slavers 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 February 2020

  • Receiving Proceeds: 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 HB415 by Rep. Jena Powell

  • Public Johns Database: Creates a “Sexual Exploitation Database” that would list the names of those convicted of prostitution-related offenses — specifically, people who buy sex in Ohio. Their names would stay on the registry for five years after their conviction and would automatically be removed unless they reoffend.

    The point: The name of the game is shame. Making names of “johns” an easily accessed public record will likely discourage people from buying sex. “The buyers of sex are never forced into it and are never victims,” Attorney General Yost said. “They are sating their own appetites at the expense of another human being, predators who take what they want without regard to the costs of their feeding.”

    Status: Introduced as HB431 by Reps. Cindy Abrams and Rick Carfagna

  • Soliciting vs. Engaging: Separates the two sides of the transaction into distinct parts: basically, buying and selling. The bill also increases the penalty for paying a person for sexual activity, with stronger punishment for those engaging teens age 16 and 17 or anyone near a church or school.

    Key definitions in the legislation: Buying, or “Engaging in Prostitution,” is a new charge defined as “inducing, enticing or procuring another to commit sexual activity.” Selling, or “Soliciting for prostitution,” is defined as anyone who “knowingly solicits another to engage in a sexual activity for hire in exchange for the person receiving anything of value from the other person.”

    The point: Currently, the victims of human trafficking and those buying them face the same charge of “soliciting.” This long-overdue change would make buyers face tougher penalties and treat victims more fairly.

    Status: Initially introduced as HB128 by Rep. Kyle Koehler

  • Companion Bill: Summarizes the above three bills

    Status: Introduced as SB247 by Sens. Tim Schaffer and Teresa Fedor

Other human trafficking measures supported by AG Yost and the Human Trafficking Initiative:

  • Protect Trafficked Minors Act: Would ensure that the law treats 16- and 17-year-olds the same as younger victims of human trafficking. The bill would also require that any child charged with a prostitution-related offense or thought to be a victim of human trafficking be assigned a guardian ad litem in addition to a lawyer, and it would adjust the process by which the charge can be set aside for diversion actions.

    The point: Current law treats 16- and 17-year-olds like adults when they are charged with soliciting, instead of like children 15 and younger.

    Status: Introduced as SB13 by Sen. Teresa Fedor, passed by the Senate, being considered by the House

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.