More legal representation planned for juvenile and adult sex trafficking victims 

A new round of state funding will allow a Case Western Reserve University School of Law effort to help victims of human trafficking, while raising public awareness about an international human-rights problem that is especially prevalent in Ohio.

The Ohio Attorney General’s grant of $819,848 to Case Western Reserve’s Human Trafficking Project is in addition to $131,169 provided in 2015 to help get the program started.

The Attorney General’s Crime Victims Services section administers federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grants, which are provided to crime victims assistance programs operating in public and non-profit agencies throughout Ohio. The new round of funding to the law school is among the largest continuation VOCA grants issued by the Ohio AG’s office.

“The new grant means that we can expand our work in representing more juvenile and adult sex trafficking clients,” said Maureen Guirguis (Kenny), who directs the Human Trafficking Project.  “It also means we can continue to do more education and awareness in the human trafficking field. We’re really going to expand into high-risk sectors that deal a lot with sex trafficking.”

That awareness work will connect law students, faculty advisers and participating attorneys with prison inmates about to be released. Guirguis said those inmates are susceptible to sex trafficking because they often lack money for basic needs. Informational guidance is also being prepared for taxi drivers and others in the transportation industry who may encounter sex trafficking situations.

The grant allows Guirguis to bring in lawyers to supervise law students working on sex trafficking cases.

“Our juvenile cases have really stepped up,” she said. “We’re working hand-in-hand with the court that deals with juvenile sex trafficking cases here in Cuyahoga County.  We are also working on identifying proper residential facilities for juveniles.”

Human trafficking is a crime involving the exploitation of someone for labor or a commercial sex act through force, fraud or coercion. Nearly 14,600 cases of sex trafficking in the United States have been reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline since 2007, according to the Polaris Project, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that operates the hotline and works to combat human trafficking. Ohio ranks fourth nationally in the number of cases reported to the hotline.

This article was originally published Nov. 4.