Ohio City residents organize to curb demand for prostitution
by Chuck Hoven

(Plain Press, September 2007) About a dozen volunteers gathered on Lorain Avenue from late evening on Friday August 17 to the early morning hours of Saturday August 18th in an effort to discourage prostitution on Lorain Avenue. Ohio City Safety Coordinator Bob Shores worked with members of the W. 45-W. 47th Block Club to organize the event.

Ohio City Resident Russell Cendrowski held up a sign that said, “Dear John, Your plate number is being recorded. Yours truly, The Neighbors.”

Police nabbed about ten “Johns” on Lorain Avenue the night before the gathering of residents, said Ohio City Safety Coordinator Bob Shores. He noted that many of those arrested had suburban addresses. Shores also noted that St. Paul’s Church on Franklin has a program to help women escape the exploitation of prostitution.

In trying to stem the demand for prostitution, the group is in agreement with Lisa Thompson, Liaison for the Abolition of Sexual Trafficking at the Salvation Army National Headquarters, who visited Cleveland on August 21st to heighten awareness of the exploitation of women in sexual trafficking. She called for curtailing demand as a key method to decrease the number of women coerced into a state of servitude.

Thompson, speaking at the headquarters of the Salvation Army in downtown Cleveland on August 21st, noted that women and children in Ohio are falling victim to sexual trafficking daily. Thompson said commercial sex markets, such as prostitution, pornography and strip clubs, create the demand for sex trafficking.

According to a booklet prepared by the Federal Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women, sex trafficking is defined as “recruitment, harboring, transportation, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act is under 18 years of age.”

Thompson noted, “The vast majority of adult women in prostitution experience levels of physical and psychological coercion, physical abuse, and torture that plainly classify them as victims of sex trafficking.”

Emphasizing that physical force is not the only way that women are coerced into prostitution, Thompson noted methods of coercion included threats of violence to the victims or their family members, forced drug usage and being forced into humiliating situations so photographs can be taken or videos made to blackmail the victim into acts of prostitution.

Theresa Flores, who joined Thompson as a speaker at the Salvation Army, said when she was a 15-year-old suburban Detroit high school student, she was drugged and photos were taken of her in compromising sexual positions. She said she was told her parents and friends would be shown the photos if she did not do as she was told. Flores described two years of sexual exploitation that followed resulting ultimately in her being beaten and discarded in an unfamiliar neighborhood in the city of Detroit.

Citing statistics, Thompson cited a Canadian Medical Association Journal article indicating the short life spans and “high incidence of death by homicide, suicide, drug and alcohol related problems and HIV infections and accidents – in that order” of women exploited by prostitution. She urged men to take responsibility to curb demand by refusing to participate in the commercial sex industry.

She urged Clevelanders to be aware of venues for sex trafficking, which she says, “include massage parlors, saunas, health clinics, brothels, night clubs, strip clubs, escort services, truck stops, the streets and the internet.”

Literature passed out by Thompson included a brochure from the Initiative Against Sexual Trafficking, which gives strategies for combating sex trafficking such as organizing “to enforce zoning laws and to close strip clubs and ‘massage parlors’ - the fronts for prostitution and trafficking in your community.”

Additional information on how to combat sexual trafficking and how to identify and help the victims of sexual trafficking is available on the website of the Initiative Against Sexual Trafficking at www.iast.net and on the Salvation Army Website at www.salvatrionarmyusa.org/trafficking.

(see related photos here)


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