YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Every day in Youngstown, kids disappear from home. Some of them never come back – they are lured into a world of forced slavery and sex trafficking.
Taken at 16, a man hooked Rachel Kaisk on drugs and then turned her out as a prostitute. She thought the man was her boyfriend, but he would drop her off at the side of the highway 20 miles from a truck stop and she would have to hitch rides.
She earned most of her money along Interstate 80 and the truck stop in Austintown. For 14 years, she earned money this way for her pimp.
“I would get beat if I got busted by police because I didn’t run fast enough. I would get beat if I didn’t bring back enough money,” Kaisk said. “In rain, snow, sleet or sunshine, I was always out there. All I cared about was getting that money.”
Kaisk said she would sometimes spend two days working in the truck stop to earn enough money. And when police got too hot around the truck stops, her pimp moved her on to Manhattan and other cities on the east coast.
“We have runaways every day. A lot of them run away overnight and come back. There is a small percentage that is never heard from again,” said Lt. Ramon Cox, Youngstown Police Department. “They try to find someone to help them, but a lot of times that is a trap.”
According to investigators, the first 48 hours for a missing child or teen is key. Anything after that, increases the potential they could be pushed into sex trafficking.
At the Renee Jones Empowerment Center in Cleveland volunteers work to get victims out of the sex trade. Rachel Kaisk works there now, too and says she sees a little bit of herself in the people that she helps. Many are naive and trusting which is exactly what found Renee Jones says human traffickers are looking for.
The traffickers seem kind at first – offering food and shelter, and they will appoint a woman in their stable who is in charge of recruiting new victims. And Jones says there is no discrimination in the sex trade, everyone from every walk of life is at risk.
“It can happen in very affluent neighborhoods. It can happen in the ghetto,” Jones said.
Jones said the recent focus on fighting human trafficking in the state is a good sign and hopes the effort is ongoing.
Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Ohio State Highway Patrol have started special programs to try to stop human trafficking, especially of young people. Part of the program targets truck stops and rest areas on the interstate system where troopers talk to drivers and passengers – spreading the word that there’s a way out of human trafficking rings.