One day after the state announced spending $50,000 on a public awareness program to help combat human trafficking, people gathered from all over at the annual “Unlocking the Chains” conference to hear from experts and victims about their experiences with the growing problem.
Barbara Freeman is a victim of prostitution and human trafficking in Columbus; she served as the keynote speaker at the conference on Friday.
“Usually, when you’re caught on TV or something, you hear about stuff like that happening in third-world countries,” Freeman said. “It is actually happening here more than people realize.”
Freeman openly spoke about her past, including stories of her being raped and using hard drugs.
She had been arrested multiple times and dealt with many violent crimes.
“The transition was very hard for me,” Freeman said. “I wasn’t educated about human trafficking; I wasn’t educated about addiction.”
She said she finally turned her life around after realizing what she really wanted for herself.
According to Elizabeth Ranade-Janis, the state’s anti-trafficking coordinator, Ohio has the fourth most human trafficking incidents in the nation.
Ranade-Janis attributed the number to Ohio’s high rate of teenage runaways.
Freeman offered advice for others struggling with similar problems.
“Use your voice. Don’t be scared, because you have to get to your womb to heal. You have to heal from the inside out,” she said.
Today, Freeman uses her past experiences as a motivational and inspirational speaker, hoping to help others wherever and whenever she can.
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