AKRON- When you walk the streets of Akron you may not see what’s tragically clear to Angel Dague.
“Pain, drugs, prostitution, lies,” she says as she walks along a street on the city’s Eastside. These are all things meant to be hidden, but they are obvious to the 47-year-old because the world of prostitution and human trafficking used to consume her life.
“I think it was six years I’m in and out of cars right here on these streets of Akron until one night I ended up on a street and I remember screaming out to God, kill me or save me but don’t let me live like this,” Angel said.
God didn’t leave Angel in that world. Rahab Ministries found her when he was drug addicted and hopeless and sitting in prison. But she’s not in that place anymore.
“I just remember saying oh my gosh I’m really worth this life that God sent his son to die for me to get,” she said.
While hard to believe, there are many women trapped in sex trafficking. “I think it’s hard for anyone to wrap their head around the fact that human trafficking is happening right here in their own zip code,” Angel said.
Many women who get trapped in human trafficking end up at Akron Municipal Court in front of Judge Ron Cable. They are often charged with theft, drug possession and sometimes solicitation.
“Mostly women who are being held against their will by an individual who is benefiting from them having sex with others financially,” Judge Cable explained.
Cable was elected to the municipal court bench in December of 2017 and had a vision of creating a program that would serve women caught in sex trafficking.
The RISE Program, which stands for Restore Individual Self-Empowerment, began in October in 2018 and is modeled after a special court docket for victims of human trafficking in Franklin County. The program identifies human trafficking victims and takes them out of the standard justice system.
“The law has identified them as both victims and criminal defendants but I think it’s just the humane thing to do. We’re here as a court and for me to sentence someone to five days in jail for theft that’s a human trafficking victim what good have I really done anyone?” Cable said.
In 2018, Ohioans reported the fourth most cases of any state, but what’s scary are the number of cases that go unreported and the women who don’t realize they are being trafficked.
“Maybe you have someone who thinks, oh this is my boyfriend, and he cares about me but really all he’s doing is using her to get drugs,” Cable explained.
So far six women are in the program and meet biweekly at the courthouse. They get drug and trauma counseling, help with employment and housing instead of going to jail. They can also work towards expungement.
“If I were only able to help those six people I would feel pretty good about the program.
Recently the court had to intervene when a man controlling one of the women was going to bail her out of jail. A woman has also requested to be taken to a local safe house.
Angel Dague is now employed at Rahab Ministries and helps run their drop-in house in one of the city’s toughest neighborhoods.
“When they come in and they are not sure because a lot of people have hurt them,” she says to the other women who are preparing for that day’s meal and Bible study.
Women can come to the drop-in house from off the streets and also from correctional facilities to have a family meal and pick out clothes.
Angel loves what Judge Cable is trying to do with the RISE Program. “When you have a team of people that are cheering you on and believe in your that makes a difference,” she says.
In 2018 there were 219 cases of human trafficking reporting in Ohio. The majority of them involved women.
“To them [women] it looks like their savior, when in reality all he sees her as is a dollar sign,” Angel explains.
Angel says there needed to be a light in the darkness of human trafficking in Akron, Rahab Ministries has been that light for a long time, and now there’s another glimmer coming from the courthouse.
To report a suspected case of human trafficking call the national hotline at 1-888-373-788 or text 233733.