State lawmakers must aid women who are sex slaves

Last week, we published an op-ed column written by Ohio Attorney General David Yost that made a strong argument for quick legislative action to combat human trafficking.

The insightful, no-holds-barred article was a timely exclamation point to a March law-enforcement sting operation in Liberty Township that resulted in the arrest of eight men who were charged with possession of criminal tools and solicitation.

“We noticed some problems in some of our hotels, so we wanted to be more proactive,” said Liberty Police Chief Toby Meloro.

Assisting Meloro were the Mahoning Valley Human Trafficking Task Force, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

The eight men were lured to a Liberty hotel by police officers who entered internet chat rooms posing as underage girls. They set up meetings with the men, who were arrested when they showed up.

At the time of the sting, Attorney General Yost had this to say:

“There’s no way for men to know whether the sex they’re buying is from a woman in slavery or an alleged willing participant – or for that matter, an undercover cop. Don’t buy sex in Ohio.”

Yost, who took the oath of office in January as the state’s top cop, elaborated on his comments regarding the Liberty sting in his op-ed.

“Why should society tell two adults that one cannot pay the other for sex? Why should government be able to set rules about what happens in private in a bedroom or a hotel room?

“The answer lies in the shadows of American society, among the unnoticed lives of the slaves.

“Yes, slaves. Women – sometimes men, sometimes boys, but mostly women – are ‘groomed’ by older men who wish to sell them as sex slaves. These slave masters look for vulnerable girls they can exploit, usually in their early mid-teens, who are often already marginalized or traumatized by their own childhood experiences.”

Buying and selling

Thus, in light of the lucrative slave trade that is taking place all over the state, the attorney general is pushing for a law that would split the buying and selling of sex in separate offenses, with buying being the more serious crime.

In other words, Yost wants the “johns” to feel a greater weight of the law than the women who are the victims of human trafficking.

“Last week, I called on the General Assembly to introduce new legislation to increase the penalty for buying sex in Ohio,” Yost said this week. “You see, without buyers’ money, there is no market for sex. And without a market, there is no human trafficking. This legislative change could make all the difference in the fight against modern-day slavery.”

In addition to the men who pay for sex, there are slave masters who look for vulnerable girls they can exploit.

We should disabuse ourselves of the notion that the men who own the girls and women are great humanitarians just concerned about their wellbeing.

It’s no accident that drug addiction is the rule rather than the exception among sex slaves and that they are financially dependent on their “masters.”

As Yost puts it: “Enticing them at first – with attention, kindness, money, food, clothing – these modern slave masters eventually introduce the girls to addictive drugs, and use their dependency or an outright threat of violence to coerce them into selling themselves for sex.

“The slave master gets the money, of course – they call the women ‘ATMs.’ The women get to keep their addiction. This is what human trafficking looks like.”

The attorney general acknowledges that not all prostitution is human trafficking, but what turns the selling of sex into trafficking is whether the money stays with the seller or her slave master.

The arguments for keeping prostitution illegal and also upping the ante on the buying of sex are compelling.

However, the buying and selling of sex are now considered low-level misdemeanors, which Attorney General Yost wants to change.

We fully support his justification for throwing the book at the purveyors of sex:

“ … many women who are convicted of selling sex are doing so because they are forced into it, and are victims themselves.

“The buyers of sex are never forced into it, and are never victims. They are sating their own appetites at the expense of another human being, predators who take what they want without regard to the cost of their feeding. Without their money, there is no market for sex; without a market, there is no human trafficking.”

This issue should be a no-brainer for the Ohio General Assembly. The sex slave is someone’s daughter or granddaughter who has been preyed upon by soulless men