BY KAELAN DOOLAN, COMMUNICATIONS CO-OP
The following is a reflection from Kaelan Doolan, a Communications Co-op working for OJPC during his last semester at Xavier University. Kaelan is also Chapter President for Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Sigma Gamma Chapter and the former Legislative Vice President of Xavier’s Black Student Association.
As I write this, I sit contemplatively about the real meaning behind “human trafficking.” I had heard of human trafficking before from television, film and the Internet, but I had never really taken the time to see how deeply the blade of this epidemic cuts. I didn’t see how fortunate I and many others are to be able to have everyday autonomy over the use of our bodies. What I also didn’t see was how many people turn a blind eye to the victims of human trafficking.
Last year, in the State of Ohio, 289 trafficking cases were reported to national hotlines, however that number is only a tiny portion of the true population of those who are made to be trafficked. A recent study, by the Ohio Attorney General, found that over 1000 of these victims were children, with many more adult victims that follow suit. The tragedy of it all starts to sink in when one realizes that each of those thousands of people has a face, a life, feelings, a family. Things that each of us take for granted every day are but distant hopes and fantasies to some of these people.
Today is January 11; National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. A day that, to those who know of it, brings feelings of great sorrow and pain and, to those who don’t, may bring feelings of curiosity and questioning. For me I seem to fit somewhere in the middle. I feel great sadness at the knowledge that so many are forced to suffer for so little. Yet, at the same time, I questioned whether this issue could truly be remedied. OJPC gave me hope that the latter could in fact be achieved.
Since beginning my role here, as a communications intern, I have learned a great deal about the complexities of human trafficking, including how traffickers control their victims, what barriers traffickers create and the barriers that the legal system creates. With that said, the OJPC also taught me how some of these victims can get their lives back. The Women’s Project is one of the premier initiatives created by OJPC for the legal advocacy of women with criminal records. This includes women who were victims of human trafficking. Some of the services that OJCP provides through this project are: record expungement, legal pardons, record sealing and Certificates of Qualifications for Employment (CQE).
Seeing as how the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that as many as 6 in 10 women in state prisons had been subject to physical or sexual abuse, it is imperative that advocacy programs like this are allowed to function in a modern society. However, there is still much work to be done and many other people, including men, teenagers and children, are being subject to the horror of human trafficking. Let’s make today the day that we remember those people, while also ensuring that that remembrance is followed by action. Action that ensures that those currently being trafficked, those who are in prison for it, those who are recovering from it, and those who are vulnerable to it are all given an equal chance at freedom.