CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - An Akron judge is now trying to help victims of human trafficking, instead of putting them in jail for crimes associated with their past.
The program is the first of it's kind in Summit County.
One survivor, who’s now ministering to others, says it would have made all the difference in her case 10 years ago.
Angel Dauge works for Rahab Ministries, serving women who are in the position she was once in too.
“This is what God wove me together in my mother’s womb to do,” she said. “There’s so many women that I meet that are so far stuck in the dark where I used to be. I’m so grateful for my life."
Dauge says for years, she thought it was okay for men to sexually abuse her, because she was getting drugs in return.
During that time, she picked up several drug and prostitution charges she had to deal with later.
She says, “Addiction grabs a hold of you from the inside, and it squeezes any hope that you have inside of you out.”
Now, Judge Ron Cable is giving women trying to break free from the cycle a shot at erasing that criminal record.
“This is a unique situation in the justice system where the defendant in a criminal case have also been identified as a victim,” he said.
Cable runs a support group that meets once a week in this courtroom.
It’s the newest of three programs in the state of Ohio.
He already has six participants.
“They’re certainly worthy of our help,” Cable said. “The stories they tell are simply horrendous. They’ve suffered such severe trauma, it’ll bring tears to your eyes.”
Judge Cable helps participants work through their court cases, provides therapy and housing options, and hopes to expunge their records once they finish the program.
The judge says he hopes to eventually build a specialized docket for victims of sex-trafficking.
This Friday is national human trafficking awareness day.
You can also get help by contacting the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
The number is 1-888-373-7888, or text ‘HELP’ to 233733.