By Matt Clevenger
For Miami Valley Today
TIPP CITY — Students, parents and concerned community members gathered at the Tipp Center for a special conference to help raise local community awareness on the subject of human trafficking.
The Southwest Ohio Anti-Human Trafficking Community Awareness Event, held Saturday, featured five different guest speakers from several anti-human trafficking organizations as well as breakout sessions and discussion groups. Designed to equip and train professionals, parents and youth to recognize the signs of human trafficking, the event was organized by local business owners Caitlin Miller and Haley Garber.
“It’s a full-spectrum form of training,” Haley Garber said. “We start with what is human trafficking and how is it happening; focusing in on the internet, which is the largest form of grooming, to legal enforcement, how is that working and restoration. Often restoration is left out or overlooked.”
“There is still hope,” she said, “and there is restoration available for survivors.”
Exactly what human trafficking is can be hard to define. “It is force, fraud or coercion, that is the legal definition,” Garber said. “Human trafficking would be anybody doing something outside of their free will, like in exchange for money or drugs, and they don’t have control over their lives.”
“Human trafficking didn’t have a legal name in the U.S. until the year 2000, so we’re missing so many laws,” she said. “That’s a big part of why we have so much confusion. What’s prostitution and what’s trafficking? Who’s choosing to do this of free will, and who isn’t?”
“Dayton is a hotspot, because we have I-70 and I-75, and we have so much drug trafficking,” she said. “Where there’s drug trafficking, there’s human trafficking.”
“Rural counties are affected by it as well,” Caitlin Miller said. “I’m actually from the Darke county area; back in 2019 somebody was trafficked here as well, from a farmhouse in Darke county.”
Approximately 150 people attended Saturday’s conference at the Tipp Center, which also offered refreshments and free childcare, all provided by volunteers and donations from local businesses. Sponsors included Panera Bread, Purebred Coffee Co., the Vineyard Fellowship, Tipp City Community Connextions, Tipp Center, Gina Miller and childcare volunteers, Human Trafficking Essentials, LLC, the Green County ACE Task Force, Gracehaven and the Oasis House.
“A lot of it has been community support,” Miller said. “We’re just community people who felt the need to host an event like we’re doing today.”
Long-time friends, Miller and Garber hosted their first human trafficking awareness event at the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center in November. Both are also local business owners; Miller owns Miller Flowers Greenhouse and Florist in Greenville, and Garber owns a traveling beauty company, Beauty by Haley Garber.
“It’s just us,” Miller said. “We’re small business owners. A lot of this event was word of mouth through Facebook. We started an event page, and then just started inviting our friends and telling them to invite people.”