“Ohio children younger than 6 have been sexually trafficked by their own parents in exchange for drugs, rent and cash, a new report indicates.
Information from the Ohio Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers shows that 51 minors from across the state were potential human-trafficking victims — five of them age 6 or younger — over a nine-month period. The network has a state contract to screen children referred by law enforcement, children’s services agencies and others, to determine whether they may have been trafficked.
Statistics from July 2013 to March 2014 showed all but five of the 51 minors reported were 13 to 18 years old. Only one case involved a male. They came from both urban and rural areas of the state.
“I’m most shocked that families are doing this to their own children,” said the director of the advocacy center that originally detected three of the cases involving the youngest children. She asked not to be identified for this story to avoid pinpointing specific details about the cases that might cause problems for the children, or jeopardize legal proceedings.
“We think it happens to young girls who are runaways. But with these youngest kids, it’s their actual families who are trafficking them.”
She said more information about what happened to very young children gradually comes out over time as they are in counseling and other therapeutic programs.
Information on at least three of the five youngest victims indicated they were trafficked sexually by one or both of their parents in “exchange for drugs, rent, goods or money,” said Amy Deverson Roberts of the children’s advocacy network.
She said some cases have been referred for prosecution and others are pending. She could not release specifics about any cases.
The suspected victims were referred for help to law enforcement, children’s services, mental-health providers and other agencies as needed, Roberts said.
“It’s all about collaboration to provide the best services for victims,” Roberts said.
The network last year received a $523,000, two-year grant from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to provide training to detect signs of trafficking, to put on education programs, and to handle child referrals. The grant came from a trafficking task force created in an executive order by Gov. John Kasich.
Officials estimate that 1,100 children are forced into the sex trade each year in Ohio; 13 is the most common age for children to be victimized.
Trafficking victims can get help by calling a national hotline, 1-888-373-7888, or texting the word INFO to 233733.”
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