A local grassroots effort is hosting a Our Children Need A Voice rally and walk, slated for 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 13, beginning at Mary Rutan Park.
Organizer and Belle Center area resident Jordyn Hawkins said the group will be walking from the park to different locations in the downtown Bellefontaine area, including the Logan County Courthouse, to raise awareness regarding issues facing children, including child trafficking and pedophilia.
Hawkins, a mother of three young children, started a Facebook page, Our Children Need A Voice, in the last month that has now garnered more than 2,000 members.
She said felt a call to action after learning that Ohio’s rates of child trafficking are among the highest in the country.
“I started getting really angry reading about this and realized that I had to do something,” she said this week. “While we feel like we live in a safe community, we still need to bring awareness to this issue and step up and fight for stiffer penalties for those who harm children.
“I want a safe world for our children. I don’t want them to have to worry if they could be touched in a bad way, or if they will be sold for sex trafficking.”
Hawkins is also actively working with local law enforcement regarding ways to educate the public regarding sex offenders living in the area, and wants to reach out to the court system as well.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s Office reports people of any age, race, sex or socioeconomic status can fall victim to human trafficking, but certain factors have been shown to make individuals more vulnerable. The nonprofit Polaris, which operates the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline, identifies the following as significant risk factors: substance use, mental health concerns, recent migration or relocation, involvement with the child welfare system, being a runaway and homelessness.
If you suspect someone is a victim of trafficking, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at (800) 373-7888. The confidential hotline is open 24 hours a day, every day, and helps identify, protect and serve victims of trafficking.