Center raises trafficking awareness

WARREN – Helping victims of human trafficking also includes raising awareness of the problem, say organizers of a local event Friday in honor of National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

Jim Pipino of the Northeast Ohio Coalition on Resources and Restoration said at the forum at Mahoning Valley Hope Center said making people aware of human trafficking is crucial to fighting it.

”We need to make it relevant in our own area,” Pipino said. ”There are things we can do about it.”

Locally, human trafficking victims often end up in the illegal sex trade, Pipino said, and besides awareness, opportunities for victims to escape that life are key to battling human trafficking, Pipino said.

Statewide in 2012, Attorney General Mike DeWine said the Safe Harbor Law to combat human trafficking was passed and human trafficking webinars were also held as was a summit with law enforcement across the state to address the problem.

In 2013, the attorney general’s office wants to focus on labor trafficking and new outreach efforts for victims.

Laura Bartchak of Seeking God’s Glory church, which helped to host the summit, said events like the one Friday are good to keep people informed of human trafficking issues.

”We’re learning more and more of the severity of the problem,” Bartchak said. ”If one person is a victim of trafficking in our area, it’s too much.”

She said being involved in trafficking issues fits in with the mission of the church.

”The Lord tells us to rescue the week and the needy. That’s a command, to take care of those less fortunate.”

Pastor Jason Allen, the associate pastor of Seeking God’s Glory, said the church tries to help out the area with programs like its Saturday Soup Ministry and its Project Hope on Wednesdays, where they give away food and clothing to the needy.

”It’s all about educating and helping people,” Allen said.