By Katie Sobiech
The statistics surrounding human trafficking in the United States are startling. And even more disturbing is the fact that Toledo has ranked 3rd in the line-up of most trafficked areas – and it’s on the FBI’s radar for having such a large number of pimps.
Ohio authorities estimate that over 1,000 children are currently being prostituted in this state alone. (The Guardian)
The Daughter Project, a non-profit organization, is on a mission to end this – one recovery home at a time.
This past November they opened up their first trafficking shelter for sex trafficking survivors.
The mission of this safe haven is to provide holistic healing services in an extremely safe, home-like environment to girls and women who have been freed from sex traffickers – free of charge.
Their services include abuse & addiction counseling, family/friend restoration, health & nutrition education, medical/dental/vision care, legal counsel and spiritual mentorship.
Doctors, counselors and other professionals have been recruited to provide medical services to the girls as well.
Specific therapies offered to the girls include art, dance, drama, equine, music and play therapy.
They also collaborate with various local community organizations to provide healthy, educational opportunities. Some of these include the YMCA, Toledo Ballet, Symphony and Zoo. (www.thedaughterproject.org)
How it all Began
“It started about 4 years ago with Jeff, the Director – a full time math teacher at a school in Toledo. His kids were grown and he was thinking about what he could do next,” Jane Ginter, Case Manager with The Daughter Project, said.
“He was working with some homeless people and running classes for them and started reading this book called ‘Not for Sale’ about sex trafficking. He said ‘Someone’s got to do something about this’. So he started talking to people, anyone and everyone. He talked about what could be done. He started forming committees to figure out what we could do,” Ginter continued.
“We take girls age 10-17. All of them have been through some type of abusive situation in their past. Because of that, and because they’ve been set up for that, there’s people who prey on them and look for girls who have been beaten down, have low self-esteem and might need someone to take care of them,” Ginter explained.
“It’s usually an older boyfriend. He showers them with attention, offers them gifts, takes them places and tells them that he loves them so they really think this guy loves them and is their boyfriend. They don’t realize he’s a pimp, or trafficker who’s grooming them to work for him. That’s how a lot of girls get ensnared. A lot of times that has to be broken through. They don’t see that they’ve been exploited. They think ‘well this guy loves me’ because they don’t have anything else to compare it to,” Ginter said.
And there are barriers in reaching the girls and truly getting them to understand the problem that they were caught up in.
“It’s not like (they say) ‘All this has happened to me and thank you for rescuing me!’ Its having to work through layers of trauma and the messages that have been sent to them to show what a healthy relationship looks like and that their experience was really exploitation and being used and traumatized,” Ginter explained.
For more on this story, watch for Part Two on what a day in the life of these girls looks like, future goals for this project, and how you can get involved!
For more info. please visit http://www.thedaughterproject.org.
If you have any story ideas, questions, or comments you can contact: Katie@akroneur.com.