OHIO VALLEY — Over 20 people braved a downpour of rain Thursday evening in Mason to shine a light on the growing numbers of human trafficking.
July 30 is designated “World Day Against Trafficking in Persons,” and Chelsea Roush felt it was the perfect day to organize a walk for awareness.
Armed with signs and umbrellas, and wearing awareness shirts, the participants made their way from the Walmart plaza through the town. The crowd varied in age from six years to grandparents.
Roush and husband, Ryan, are the parents of two young sons. She said she first learned of human slavery several years ago at church.
“Soul Harvest Church, now Northbend Church, started showing awareness in our area with red X’s on their hands for the ‘End It’ movement,” Roush said. “Human trafficking is a serious crime that doesn’t get enough awareness in our communities. It’s a violation of our human rights, and we, as Americans, need to stand up for the ones who do not have a voice.”
Roush said she is aware that organizing a walk won’t fix the problem in the world, but hoped it would at least shed light on the issue. She added many find it difficult to talk about.
“People need to know that it’s closer to home than they realize, and it can happen to anyone,” she said.
Citing the recent indictments of eight men in Gallia County in what was called “Operation Predator,” Roush said she hopes surrounding communities will join in on these types of sweeps, bringing offenders to justice.
“I think what Gallia County is doing to find predators of women and children is a wonderful thing,” she said. “These men, and in some cases women, need to be exposed. I feel pedophilia is trying to be normalized in our society, and that is not OK.”
(“Operation Predator” was described by the Gallia County Sheriff’s Department on Wednesday as an “effort to eliminate sexual predators from preying on our youth in Gallia County.” The eight men indicted allegedly agreed to meet and pay for sexual conduct with who the offender reportedly believed was a minor under the age of sixteen.)
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Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing, email her at [email protected]