CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Ohio ranks fourth in the nation for human trafficking.
In a recent report from the Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force, more than 300 people in the state were victims of sex trafficking, about 25 were trafficked for hard labor, and another eight were trafficked for both purposes.
"On the surface, it sounds bad, but the reality is, we know that human trafficking is taking place in every community in our country," said Teresa Stafford, Senior Director of Victims Services and Outreach at the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center. "Being ranked so high means Ohio is identifying survivors of trafficking."
She says that means more steps can be taken to help them. So how do you know what a trafficking victim looks like?
"Maybe somebody that doesn't have complete control over their money, their movement. tattoos," said Stafford. "A lot of times, we affiliate tattoos with gangs, but when you look at some of the traffickers, they will brand their victims."
Victims can come from any socioeconomic, racial, or geographic background, she says, and anyone can be a victim of trafficking.
What does Ohio have so much trafficking? There are a lot of reasons, experts say.
"We have a lot of, five major highways, connected to Ohio. We also have a demand for services here in Ohio, unfortunately. We have a lot of strip clubs in communities. We have a need for, even for labor trafficking, with having a lot of farmland here in Ohio. The demand is just here for certain type of things," said Stafford.
If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, you can call the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center STAR hotline 24/7 for help. That number is 855-431-STAR.