Senator brainstorms with local experts on sex trafficking prevention

BOARDMAN, Ohio (WYTV) – Sex trafficking is a growing problem in the United States and it’s happening locally. But one senator is making an effort to combat this crime in the Mahoning Valley.

Senator Rob Portman recently proposed the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, which would prevent websites from knowingly allowing third parties to sell women and children online for sex.

“In the last five years, the experts say sex trafficking has increased dramatically,” Portman said.

He met with local law enforcement, medical professionals, and members of the Northeast Ohio Coalition Against Human Trafficking in Boardman on Friday to discuss the efforts being made to stop the exploitation.

The legislation came after a two-year investigation into the website Backpage.com, which knowingly allowed sex traffickers to solicit and sell victims on the site.

“My hope is that we will get a bipartisan group of senators — and I think we will — to support it,” Portman said. “There are some people pushing back against it.”

Each group of experts at the meeting brought a different perspective to the discussion and had suggestions on what needs to be done to stop sex trafficking as a whole.

As for the future of this legislation, Portman said there is much to be done.

“I think, ultimately, what will prevail is the sense of decency and human dignity, and that nobody — nobody — should be in favor of selling human beings online.”

Portman said there’s been a 500 percent increase in human trafficking between 2010 and 2015.

In June, Senator Sherrod Brown also introduced bipartisan legislation to help victims of human trafficking, as well as assist law enforcement. The Abolish Human Trafficking Act expands on a 2015 law that increased the resources and tools available for combating human trafficking across the United States.