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Ohio Attorney General awards funding to Case Western Reserve’s Human Trafficking Clinic

The Human Trafficking Program at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law is expanding its community outreach, education and survivor identification with a new round of state funding.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Victims of Crime Act Fund (VOCA) recently awarded the initiative $425,000 to continue its support. The clinic represents survivors of both sex and labor trafficking in criminal, civil, juvenile, family and immigration matters.  

The initiative is directed by a team of attorneys with dual social work degrees: Melanie GiaMaria and Maya Simek, both lecturers at the law school, and Judith Lipton, the Honorable Blanche E. Krupansky and Frank W. Vargo Jr. Professor of Law.

“The program’s goal is to empower survivors to lead lives of meaning and fulfillment,” said Lipton. “To further this goal, clients will be offered trauma-informed services from an interdisciplinary team that includes students and faculty from the schools of social work, nursing and medicine.”

Targeted outreach is planned for populations most at-risk for trafficking, including teens, incarcerated individuals, those facing homelessness and/or substance-use disorders, foreign nationals and members of the LGBTQ community.

The new round of funding to the law school is among the largest continuation VOCA grants issued.

“The program will continue to provide education and awareness on human-trafficking issues for  multi-disciplinary professionals and students in the fields of law, social work, nursing and medicine,” said Giamaria, adding that work also is planned with legislators, social service and health care providers, members of law enforcement and the general public.

The clinic also will continue its efforts to include students in the initiative.

“This funding award acknowledges and supports the exceptional work that this program provides to survivors of human trafficking,” said Simek. “It also allows us to further collaborate with others locally, regionally, nationally and internationally to assist human-trafficking survivors, penalize traffickers and reduce the demand for those who are being exploited.”

Working toward a solution

Ohio is indicative of the human-trafficking problem: The state ranked fourth in the number of sex-trafficking hotline calls in 2016, after California, Texas and Florida, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC).

And the numbers keep climbing. Sex and labor trafficking represent a criminal industry worth about $150 billion each year, second only to illegal narcotics, according to NHTRC estimates.

To raise awareness and help counter the scourge, Case Western Reserve is partnering with the Collaborative to End Human Trafficking to host the fourth annual Human Trafficking Symposium, called “Human Trafficking Multidisciplinary Symposium: Strategic Responses to the Trafficking Crisis” at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens Thursday, Aug. 29.

For more information, contact Colin McEwen at