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Panel: Arrest 'johns' to curb sex trafficking
State study group makes final report
Thursday, December 16, 2010  02:54 AM
By Alan Johnson
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

After sizing up the human-trafficking problem in Ohio, expanding victim services and crafting a tough new law, a state panel got to the bottom line: busting "johns."

"Men have to be arrested," said Jewel Woods of the Renaissance Male Project, a subcommittee leader of the Ohio Trafficking in Persons Study Commission.

"There is no substitute for arresting men who are involved in commercialized sex," Woods said.

The panel established by Attorney General Richard Cordray focused yesterday in its final report on the "demand" side of human sex trafficking, making a series of recommendations to law enforcement, prosecutors and community agencies.

Woods' committee said the demand for sex is fueled by "the limitless profits that traffickers and pimps generate from repeatedly selling sexual services of those under their control."

The panel suggested reducing demand by increasing arrests of "buyers of prostitution," typically men who quite often escape punishment while the woman goes to jail. There should be more "john" schools (Columbus and four other cities already have them), and community agency staff members should be trained to recognize human-trafficking cases, the committee said.

The "boys will be boys" attitude must be abandoned, Woods emphasized.

His committee also called on law-enforcement and social-service agencies to be more diligent in pursuing child pornography and child sexual-abuse cases. Both are often markers of men who later become involved with "consumer sex" with human trafficking victims.

Even bullying bears watching, said Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly, a commission member. Those who bully others, or who witnesses bullying and do nothing, "won't step out of the darkness and into the light" to report more-serious incidents, he said.

The committee report cited studies that found that the average "john" is an adult male in his late 30s, unmarried or separated. One out of five men surveyed said he had visited a prostitute at least once in his life.

A U.S. State Department study estimated international sex-trafficking profits at $27.8 billion and labor-trafficking at $31.6 billion.

Cordray, who lost his re-election bid to Republican Mike DeWine, said he is confident that his successor will continue the work of the human-trafficking panel.

"We put this crime on the map in Ohio," he said. "There's much more work that remains to be done."

ajohnson@dispatch.com

Original posting