© 2024 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
To contact us with news tips, story ideas or other related information, e-mail newsstaff@ideastream.org.

Cleveland Rape Crisis Center Opens New Human Trafficking Drop-In Site

Teresa Stafford, chief program officer at the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, says the new drop-in center is meant to be a safe, welcoming place for survivors of human trafficking. [Matthew Richmond / ideastream]
The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center's Teresa Stafford inside the new human trafficking drop-in site in Cleveland's Glenville neighborhood.

At the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center’s new human trafficking drop-in center, there’s a kitchen with coffee and a popcorn machine, couches, television, showers and a laundry room. There’s a comfortable, private room for meetings with police officers and other spaces for counseling sessions.

According to Chief Program Officer Teresa Stafford, when the first walk-in came through the door in early March, they learned that they’d done something right.

“She said, ‘This place doesn’t look institutional. It feels like home. It’s safe,’” Stafford said. “And that’s what we wanted to convey. And she felt safe enough to come back.”

The drop-in site has five or six dedicated staff members and offers all the Rape Crisis Center’s advocacy and counseling services.

“Or they could actually just come in and be in a safe space – get a cup of coffee or tea, watch tv, charge their phone, if they need to wash clothes, take a shower without having the fear of being harmed, they will be able to do that here,” Stafford said.

The Glenville location was chosen because it’s near bus lines and health care providers.

Stafford said trafficking survivors would often come to their central location, now located on West 25 th Street in Cleveland, without an appointment waiting to see someone.

“And then we started listening to them, saying, ‘Hey, what do you need?’” she said.

According to the FBI’s most recent numbers on human trafficking, there were eight cases in Ohio in 2019. But researchers estimate that nationwide less than 10 percent of cases are recorded. Sometimes that’s because the survivor isn’t interested in pursuing a court case against their captors or because law enforcement doesn’t have the right category to track trafficking and the case is recorded as prostitution or other sex offense crimes.

“We don’t have great numbers,” Stafford said. “But as we are working together with our law enforcement partners and continuously doing education, we have the ability to identify more and more survivors.”

Matthew Richmond is a reporter/producer focused on criminal justice issues at Ideastream Public Media.