Fedor, Kunze, Galonski Host 11th Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day
February 27, 2020
Today, state Sens. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Stephanie Kunze (R-Columbus), and state Rep. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) hosted the 11th annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day at the Ohio Statehouse. Each year, this event brings together survivors and advocates from throughout the state to work toward the eradication of all forms of human trafficking.
“Human trafficking is the human rights issue of our lifetime, and it’s because of people like those who attended this event and are committed to making a difference that we’ve been able to build momentum behind this movement for so many years,” Fedor said.
“In the near future I will be introducing a bill that would require students K-12 to receive human trafficking education so we can make every single student in this state aware of the signs of trafficking,” Galonski said. “On top of that, I am excited to work with Senator Fedor again as she will be introducing the same bill as companion legislation in the Senate.”
In addition to sex trafficking, this year’s event highlighted the issue of labor trafficking, a modern form of slavery in which individuals are coerced into work. This issue – which affects a variety of industries like health care, hospitality, agriculture, factory work, and beauty – was highlighted during the event’s keynote presentation by Dr. Patricia Speck and Emily Dunlap. Dr. Speck is a family nurse practitioner, as well as a professor and coordinator of the Advanced Forensic Nursing program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Nursing. Emily Dunlap provides direct legal services and advocacy to trafficked and exploited persons in Ohio.
“It’s important to look at the experiences of people who haven’t had control of what’s happening to them. People who are trafficked don’t always understand that they don’t have to give up money in exchange for their labor,” said Dr. Speck. “There’s going to have to be a broad approach, where everybody is responsible for ending trafficking – much like what is already starting to become the norm in Ohio.”
More than 40 additional panelists spoke at the event, discussing the role that health care, law enforcement and social services have in the fight against sex and labor trafficking. The event also featured presentations from more than a dozen survivors of human trafficking, who shared their stories of courage and hope in an effort to both raise awareness and provide support to others.
Throughout the event, attendees also had the opportunity to browse creative displays featuring artwork centered around survivors’ stories and social justice. These included Barbara Miner’s piece, Faces of Trafficking: The Pillars, which features life-sized photographs of individuals who are leading the fight to end human trafficking, including caregivers, survivors and witnesses; and Jane Mills Atwood’s piece, A Thousand Hands, A Million Stars, a collaborative effort between poets, visual artists, musicians and dancers who have created interactive pieces inspired by survivors’ stories.
“Tackling this issue requires a strong and immediate community-wide response,” Fedor said. “My hope is that everyone who attended this event will continue to network. The more we all stay connected and learn from one another, the greater chance we all have to live in a world without exploitation.”