DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Tonight a group of people dressed up in retro-90’s costumes are hoping to make a difference when it comes to sex trafficking.
An international issue is here in our own backyard.
Experts on the topic like Tonya Folks say, every year, more than a thousand Ohio children are victims of human trafficking and 3,000 more at risk of becoming victims.
“Many, many of them are child victims who were never rescued, when we realized the extent of the problem, we stood up ‘Be Free Dayton'” said Tonya Folks, Be Free Dayton co-founder.
Be Free Dayton- a non profit organization hoping to end sex trafficking in the Miami Valley.
“We have a before, and after approach and no one else in the country is battling sex trafficking that comprehensively because of that people from all over the united states are contacting us asking us how to start a Be Free Denver, Be Free Miami, Florida” said Folks.
Folks says it’s not just a Dayton problem..its happening all around us.
“They’re not just selling in the suburbs they’re recruiting because no one is looking for them there” said Folks.
The majority of that recruiting, taking place behind the screens of computers… a virtual haven for sex crimes.
“In our society we say, ‘those women choose it’ when we see them on the street we say that woman is the product of bad choices. but that’s not what the research shows, 9 times out of 10 she’s a child victim who was never rescued and then we judge her because shes over 18” said Folks.
Last week Englewood Police held their first ever prostitution sting, arresting 15 people.
“We need law enforcement, we need society because right now we have victims call us on the phone, crying, asking for help and we have to tell them, ‘I’m sorry there is no place for you'” said Folks.
That’s why the organization is taking it to the next level, helping women get out of the sex trafficking industry and into an aftercare program.
“Dayton has already being talked about internationally, the police force has changed their perspective and is getting the story behind the story and the community is coming together…saying ‘no, not here'” said Folks.
Be Free Dayton recently received 5, 000 dollars for winning the Dayton Citizen Volunteer award.
Fundraisers, like the one held tonight are very important for the organization because they are volunteer-based.
For more information about Be Free Dayton, click here.