COLUMBUS (WCMH) — It was a day of workshops to learn best practices, make connections, and hear success stories. The sold out summit saw 600 individuals participate with an additional 100 on a waiting list.
Kicking off the summit Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost addressed those in attendance.
He spoke of needing to crack down on those making the offenses and helping the victims.
“Ohio’s done a lot, we’ve come from a place where people didn’t think of this as even existing, or something that was only whispered about, to something that has been recognized, and the legislature’s passed some important laws, but we need to do more,” Yost told reporters after getting the summit started.
For nearly 15 years a war on human trafficking has been raging here in Ohio.
It started with a grassroots effort spurred on by advocacy leaders like State Senator Teresa Fedor who saw then Attorney General Richard Cordray lay the foundation of what would become the roadmap for how human trafficking would be combated.
After Cordray left office and Mike DeWine replaced him, DeWine continued the work implementing the plan and getting the taskforce going.
Now, Yost takes the reigns himself and ushers in the next phase of things.
Each man, regardless of political affiliation, carried a passion for resolving this issue and each has a different approach to doing so. All three knew working across the aisle would be key, according to Fedor who has been a constant through it all.
Now, Fedor works with Yost who acknowledged her long time leadership on this issue today both with reporters and introducing her as the luncheon speaker at the Summit.
Yost will need support from Fedor and other lawmakers to accomplish some goals of his own.
“I want to have enhanced penalties for Johns, including mandatory John School. I’m looking for subsequent offense to become more serious. We want to separate the selling and buying of sex into separate offenses,” said Yost.
He also wants to increase funding for victims something that has been cut recently.
We can’t fix every broken life, we repair every broken heart. But what the State can do and should do is provide the path, the road to redemption,” said Yost.
Eliminating human trafficking will be no easy task, Yost says it operates in the shadows and he says he believes it is bigger than anyone expects.
He is looking not only to lawmakers, but to the public to be partners in helping end human trafficking. And while he is relying on businesses to do their part as well, he is a realist about the situation.
“I know that there are people that do care that want to step up, I also know that there’s people that don’t want to do that, They’re in business to make a profit, they aren’t interested in this, and to those people, we need to reach out and change their hearts,” said Yost. “If we’re unable to persuade, sometimes if you grab’em by the dollars; their hearts and minds will follow.”