In the first of a two-part community discussion on human trafficking held Feb. 5 at the Bexley Public Library, Theresa Flores, a survivor and author of the memoir "The Slave Across the Street," said law enforcement and communities working together to reduce demand for the criminal activity is the most effective prevention.

CORRECTION: The second session in a two-part community discussion on human trafficking is scheduled for 6 p.m. March 10 at the Bexley Public Library, 2411 E. Main St. Because of a source's error, an incorrect date appeared in the print edition and earlier online version of this story.

In the first of a two-part community discussion on human trafficking held Feb. 5 at the Bexley Public Library, Theresa Flores, a survivor and author of the memoir "The Slave Across the Street," said law enforcement and communities working together to reduce demand for the criminal activity is the most effective prevention.

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others, including forced prostitution, according to the Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force.

About 100 people gathered at the library to hear Flores share her story. She said she was lured into human trafficking by an older man when she was 15 years old while her family was living in Detroit. She said she was an unlikely victim, considering she grew up in a two-parent household in affluent communities.

Victims "can look like anybody. They can look like your next-door neighbor," Flores said. "We have found kids working at strip clubs here in Ohio at age 14."

Flores said she was exploited for two years until Detroit police found her in a hotel room after a brutal encounter with a sex-trafficking customer. She said she finally was liberated when her family moved to Ohio, where she still lives.

Flores is now in her 50s and is an international speaker on human trafficking. She was appointed to the Ohio Attorney General's Human Trafficking Commission in 2009. She said part of her mission is to bring awareness to how widespread human trafficking is and the need for more law enforcement and community resources to be devoted to its prevention.

"Sometimes people still don't know that Ohio is the fifth-leading -- and sometimes the fourth-leading -- state in human trafficking, and this is the second-leading crime in the United States," Flores said. "The only thing bigger is drug trafficking. And actually, human trafficking is going to surpass that if we don't stop this."

Bexley City Council member Monique Lampke said she initiated the local events to shed light on the issue and mobilize residents to get involved in prevention.

"This two-part series was born out of a desire to bring the issue of human trafficking front and center, to share the signs of human trafficking and how easily it can happen in every community and what we as residents and parents can do to try and protect our children," Lampke said.

"Once the series is over, I will be looking into whether it's possible to have an educational program here for middle school and high school students focused on human-trafficking prevention here in Bexley," she said.

The follow-up session is scheduled for 6 p.m. March 10 at the library, 2411 E. Main St.

Franklin County Municipal Judge Jodi Thomas will discuss the county's efforts to assist human-trafficking victims in rebuilding their lives.

For more information on the remaining session, go to bexley.org.

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