The Imagine Foundation came together three years ago when Clevelander Jesse Bach stepped up to help Nepalese children being sold into slavery. The 15 girls rescued as a result of his efforts came to be known as “The Cleveland 15.”
Now Imagine is turning its attention to human trafficking in Northeast Ohio. Its newly released study on local online sex ads includes the not-quite-a-revelation that most sex-for-sale transactions occur near big freeway intersections with hotels. Around these parts, the headboards are shaking most at I-77 and Rockside Road, and I-271 in Beachwood. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
“We aren’t against prostitution in any way, shape, or form,” Bach says. “However, the moment it goes from voluntary to forced — that’s where we want to interject.”
From May to July, Imagine interjected itself into a study of sex ads placed locally through Backpage.com, a national listings service that is accessible through clevescene.com, among numerous other websites. They found that one in four Cleveland advertisers listed an out-of-state phone number.
The conclusion is obvious: The world’s perverts are hiding in Florida, California, New York, Texas, and Nevada.
Yet Bach sees it another way.
“This means there is someone behind the scenes with the phone who is shuffling people from place to place,” he says. “We can’t say definitively that these people are being forced across state lines for the purpose of commercial sex. But it’s interesting that Texas area codes, for example, were inordinately represented in Cleveland Backpage ads.”
Next on Imagine’s agenda: a study to determine the effect of human trafficking on domestic workers in the area. So if a Bulgarian lady in leg irons is mopping your den right now, this would be a good time to let her go.