Local and state organizations teamed up with officials from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office to educate church communities about human trafficking.
The goal of Monday night’s forum in Bellbrook was to help churches become places where victims can go for support, according to organizers.
“Living in the streets, it was a hopeless situation,” said Joyce Brown, a survivor of human trafficking who shared her story with the group.
Brown said that was her life for nearly 30 years – homeless and faced with prostitution and drug addiction.
“I didn’t have any type of a recollection of where I was going or what I was doing,” said Brown. “I didn’t know if I was going to live or die.”
Brown said she was trafficked through Columbus and other locations before getting help from Safe Harbor House in Springfield. She now works there and speaks at events where the organization helps train people on how to help trafficking victims.
“Sex trafficking, human trafficking, labor trafficking – it takes a lot of different forms,” said Amy Willmann, executive director of Safe Harbor House.
The forum in Bellbrook focused on educating church leaders and communities, Willmann said. Trafficking is everywhere, she said, and churches can be a resource for victims.
“The church is already positioned to help people and to bring hope and healing, but we need to do that in a way that’s ethical and professional and informed,” Willmann said.
Joyce Brown said she wants fellow survivors to know that help is available.
“All they have to do is reach out,” Brown said. “There’s awareness out here now.”
A second class is planned in Bellbrook on September 10 for an in-depth discussion about ways to help victims, Willmann said.