Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Fighting the sex trade on multiple fronts


There was a conversion of events this weekend that made us pause to celebrate. On Friday, The Plain Dealer reported the FBI arrest of an Elyria man charged with "forcing a 16-year-old girl to work as a prostitute." We are grateful to the many criminal justice professionals who recognize that when a minor is engaged in a commercial sex act -- or when there is coercion, threat or force involved -- this is not prostitution, but sex trafficking.
On Friday night, volunteers showed up by the dozens on Lorain Avenue between West 45th and West 80th streets for "Operation John Be Gone." Their silent protest sent a message that "johns" should go home. We are grateful for their wisdom to target the demand side of prostitution.
Hundreds more attended multiple performances of Cleveland Public Theatre's "Without Words . . . Moving Against the Sex Trade" at Gordon Theatre this weekend.
Inch by inch, our community is recognizing that commercial sex workers are often not choosing this work, but are manipulated, coerced, threatened or forced. Only when we label this activity accurately as sex trafficking can we begin to eliminate it from our neighborhoods. Then we have a chance to save the lives of women and girls who deserve better than this form of modern-day slavery.
Sondra Miller, Bay Village Miller is the vice president of community engagement at the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.

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