Conference Educates Community on Human Trafficking

Fri 1/18 @ 8AM-4PM

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and in reality, that might not mean much to many of us. It is not necessarily an issue that comes to mind when we think about Cleveland, or when we think about the safety of ourselves, our loved ones and the people we encounter every day. However, there are many organizations working to raise awareness around this prevalent and often overlooked issue.

The Renee Jones Empowerment Center — and now also the Northeast Ohio Human Trafficking Law Clinic — is a crucial Cleveland community center that provides legal and support services to victims and survivors of human trafficking. Individual therapy, horse therapy, tutoring and mentoring, employment assistance, and wellness clinics are just some of the 41 total services listed on the Empowerment Center’s website (more here).

It is run by Renee Jones, who began her work in the field in 1998. She spoke with CoolCleveland about their January 18th Human Trafficking Awareness Conference taking place at Notre Dame College in South Euclid.

“Human trafficking is something that happens in our own backyard, and the only way we are going to stop it is by educating people,” says Renee, the president and CEO of the nonprofit. “Education saves lives. The more you know about something, the more you can prevent it from happening to other people — the tricks of the traffickers and what the red flags are.”

“It’s important for community members, service providers like social workers, the medical community like nurses, first responders, people in law enforcement — all over. People in any of these categories may encounter a victim at any time, and not be aware they are a victim.”

The conference’s structure is organized to emphasize that. There are a number of panels that revolve around the very occupations that Cleveland is known for — medical professionals, law and law enforcement, in addition to tracks for educators and students, even bankers.

It could be anywhere. Renee mentions beauticians, “They’ll tell us if they see a guy that keeps bringing in a bunch of different young girls to get their hair done. That’s a red flag.”

Endangered runaways are among some of the most at risk for sex trafficking. Other minority groups, like LGBT+ and immigrants, are also disproportionately at risk. All of us as individuals should work harder to address trauma, especially as it relates to sexual violence and trafficking, in a more informed way.

Students should also feel encouraged to do their part in educating themselves. There are opportunities beyond the classroom that would make each of us better at our jobs — this is one of them.

In addition to important and engaging discussions, tickets also include a continental breakfast and lunch. See full agenda and buy tickets here.

Jenna Thomas is a sophomore at Cleveland State University studying nonprofit administration and Spanish. She is particularly interested in refugee and immigrant services and criminal justice reform, and is a tutor at Building Hope in the City’s Hope Center. In addition, Jenna is the founder and president of CSU’s university chapter of Free the Slaves working to make CSU a certified Fair Trade University.

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