By Louise Davidson
For five years now, Ohio state representative Theresa Fedor has sponsored a Human Trafficking Awareness Day at the Ohio statehouse on or about the January date of the National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Since Presbyterian Women Churchwide has challenged women to hold special events to raise awareness of modern-day slavery, PW in Ohio have participated in this state event for the last few years.
Statistics readily tell the shocking story of this human rights violation happening right now and in our own country. The increasing awareness that women, girls, men and boys are domestic, agricultural and sex slaves has led to exponentially increasing participation in the event at the Ohio statehouse.
Presbyterian women from Covenant Presbyterian Church in Columbus have attended this event each year since its inception. This year, six women spent an entire day listening to speakers at the statehouse, including Senator Portman of Ohio, Representative Fedor and others from the state attorney general’s office, as well as representatives of international organizations addressing trafficking. Governor Kasich spoke at lunch and during the afternoon panels that included law enforcement and the judiciary, social service providers and nongovernmental organizations. Finally, seven trafficking survivors spoke and were available for questions.
The women were glad to see Marvella Lambright, PW's vice moderator for justice and peace in the Synod of the Covenant, there, too.
Most noteworthy were the increased numbers of organizations with displays about their work and volunteer opportunities. For the first time, increased attendance left space for standing room only in the large atrium connecting buildings in the statehouse complex.
Since the first of these Awareness Days, it has been obvious that this scourge will not end as long as there is demand. This year, there were men speaking to this—founders of The Defenders /USA from Shared Hope International. They presented a DVD (go to https://sharedhope.org/join-the-cause/become-a-defender/resources-for-defenders) challenging men with We Can End the Demand.
A House bill addressing market-driven demand for sex trafficking is pending in the Ohio legislature. The End Demand Act has recently had a hearing. As advocates and as Presbyterian women, we hope for its passage.
PW in the Congregation at Covenant is holding an all-church Lenten breakfast in March, and will show this video prior to the event. The speaker is interim director of DOMA International (doma means "home" in several languages), a group that works to help women to recover from being trafficked, giving them skills for self-sufficiency.
Barbara Marshall, from Covenant Presbyterian,was able to work on the SOAP project (for more information, go to www.free-international.org/soap.html), labeling cakes of soap with trafficking hotline numbers. These were placed in hotel rooms in Columbus as the Arnold Classic Sports Festival for body builders began. Like the Super Bowl and casinos, this event attracts traffickers from across the country.
Cora Kuyvenhoven is a cellist and is having a mass celli (that’s the plural) concert at Covenant in May. She has asked that the offering received be sent to DOMA to support its work.
These PW are grateful for the challenge from the PW's Churchwide Coordinating Team, and will continue to seek ways to help raise awareness of, be advocates for, and encourage safety and services for victims of human trafficking.
Louise Davidson is an active member of Covenant Presbyterian Women, Covenant Presbyterian Church, Columbus, Ohio.