Ryn Farmer of Crime Victims Services of Allen County talks to the crowd at a Human Trafficking Awareness Month event held Monday at Van Wert Cinemas. More than 75 were on hand to learn the basics of the dangers of human trafficking in northwest Ohio. (DHI Media/Ed Gebert)
Ryn Farmer of Crime Victims Services of Allen County talks to the crowd at a Human Trafficking Awareness Month event held Monday at Van Wert Cinemas. More than 75 were on hand to learn the basics of the dangers of human trafficking in northwest Ohio. (DHI Media/Ed Gebert)

BY ED GEBERT

DHI Media Editor

egebert@timesbulletin.com

VAN WERT — The story of Star Wars was set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but the film that was presented first on Monday was the story of happenings that occur every day, even in northwest Ohio, and cities like Van Wert. The documentary film, “Chosen” was presented as part of an event highlighting Human Trafficking Awareness Month at Van Wert Cinemas. The free event attracted over 75 to see the documentary. A free showing of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” followed at the theater.

“Basically the reason we are doing this is to make the community aware that human trafficking is in the area and not just in the movies. It’s just our way to educate,” said Jamie Evans, YWCA of Van Wert County Housing Director. The education was a way to break the usual silence that surrounds the problem of human trafficking.

Awareness was the afternoon’s watchword as Ryn Farmer and Raven Loaiza of Crime Victims Services of Allen County shared with the audience members in the cinema.

“Human trafficking is the buying and selling of human beings in exchange for a good or a service,” Farmer explained. “We’ve had persons here as young as 4 years-old, and survivors as old as 60, so it’s a wide range of ages, genders, and socio-economic statuses. It covers a lot of different people.”

The film showed the stories of two young teenage women who were taken advantage of by older men they thought of as “boyfriends” in their 20s. Farmer pointed out that frequently teen girls are misled by older men into arrangements where they are the commodity after being stalked and sought out. Victims are often used for sex or for labor, often by older men, older women, or even parents. Traffickers also often use threats of shame and violence against family members to control their victims.

“It is in our area. Potential victims need to make sure they are always aware,” Evans stressed. “The YWCA is kind of the leader in our community in the fight against human trafficking. We have a shelter, and we do all kinds of services.”

Donations of laundry soap, dish soap, and trash bags were collected during the event for trafficking victims at the YWCA.