A few months ago Gracehaven, a non-profit in Columbus, came into our office to share about their fight to end sex trafficking. They were scheduled to come during our biweekly agent huddle where all of the members in our brokerage come together to discuss problems we’re facing, current market activities, and how we can help each other grow our business. That being said, Gracehaven’s appearance was not something we could’ve prepared ourselves for.
If you’ve never heard of the organization before Gracehaven was founded to care for the growing number of victims of domestic minor sex trafficking. More than 1,000 minors are sexually trafficked in Ohio annually. We all have this idea of sex trafficking being something out of a movie, like Taken. Pretty girls go to foreign countries and never come back. I learned that sex trafficking is nothing like Hollywood portrays it to be and is very much affecting the kids in our communities right here in Columbus, Ohio.
They explained in detail the amazing things they’ve been able to achieve. How they help these young girls who truly do not know any better. Teenagers who are at the most risk for domestic minor sex trafficking often have no concept of its reality. Their peers are often unaware of the risk to the teens around them. Gracehaven provides presentations across the city to educate adults and the youth about this epidemic. They train professionals who may encounter victims of domestic minor sex trafficking on how to recognize and help them. In August 2015, Gracehaven opened a licensed therapeutic live-in facility solely for victims of sex trafficking. They provide a safe space for these girls and get them to understand that they deserve so much more and help them realize it for themselves. These girls grow up “hard” and are often reluctant to adult help as they’ve probably been violated by other adults their whole lives. Continued efforts and the support of other young girls who’ve received help from Gracehaven can help them bring down the walls they may have so they can receive the help they need.
Eric Clouse, a police officer here in Columbus, was present at our meeting. His recount of sex trafficking was not for the faint of heart. As you can imagine he is the one that sees the most graphic elements of this epidemic. Eric described how these trafficking operations work. There are people in this world that value money over human life. They manipulate these girls into thinking they are special. They give them drugs until the drugs do what drugs do and they no longer look how they once did. After that, they begin to treat these girls like trash. These men trick the girls out! They get them hooked up on drugs so they have nowhere to go and keep coming back for more. This is the path that leads to nowhere or death. Eric Clouse has seen these “men” just throw their bodies onto the streets, alleys, and dumpsters when they eventually overdose. You might be asking yourself why doesn’t the police force lock these men up? That’s a great question and something we all asked. As you might know, the American Justice System isn’t so just. If Eric Clouse has no hard evidence of what these guys are doing or any evidence on them about anything there is quite literally nothing the police can do even if they can see these guys trick their girls out with their own eyes. As you can imagine it’s a very frustrating and heartbreaking position to be in.
During this meeting we all asked how we can help? The first thing is simply awareness. Accepting the reality that this happens right here in your state, city, and neighborhood. There could be a woman or young girl that may be connected to you in some way that’s being affected by this. A friend’s daughter, a kid on your street, and Eric even told us there was an instance where someone’s own daughter was subject to this and the parent didn’t know! After this acknowledgement your next step should be to learn from Gracehaven about the ways to notice and detect the signs of human trafficking and what to do next. Your final step is to jump off a building!
I’m kidding! Kinda. Every year Gracehaven holds an event called Over The Edge. Hence the name it entails people repelling down the side of a building. It’s an extreme feat but its purpose is to raise awareness and money. This year they raised $254,000 and the donations continue to flow in. While you may be thinking, Jeremiah you are absolutely out of your mind, first of all you’re right secondly my mom would agree with you! But honestly, after hearing of the disgusting acts that occur in my very own city I jumped at the opportunity (and then off the building lol.)
I was asked beforehand, during, and after if I was scared. Truth be told, I rode a rollercoaster for little kids once as a pre-teen and said I’d never do anything close to that ever again. So yes I most definitely questioned if I’d be able to actually go over the edge. As I was preparing to get ready to repel down the side of the Chase building, which is 330 feet high I might add, all I could think about is the victims. Being so high up in the air I could see a 360 of the entire city and who knows what was going on under those very roofs. Somewhere out there were and are many girls who are victims of this epidemic. That is what enabled me to do this. That experience was nothing compared to the fear those victims feel everyday.
I welcome you to join us next year! I understand not everyone is capable of doing such a thing but I urge you to at least educate yourself. Educate your family, friends, and loved ones. Donate if you can. A little girl could be saved by you doing your part.
Thank you to everyone that donated to my team, directly to my teammate Michael Huston, directly to myself, to any other repeller, or to Gracehaven in general. Thank you to Jeff Barrows, the founder of the company, everyone employed by the company, and all the people that volunteer! Thank YOU for reading this article and informing yourself.