CLEVELAND — The third annual “Walk for Freedom” was held in Cleveland on Saturday morning.
Cleveland kidnapping survivors Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus were in attendance.
They marched a mile, single file in deafening silence. Their steps in sync with other “Walks for Freedom” in 450 cities around the globe, striding in solidarity against human trafficking.
“I believe that everyone needs to know that human trafficking and sex trafficking is still a really big problem in our cities,” said sex trafficking survivor, Jessika.
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, Ohio ranks in the top five of reported cases.
“I feel like it’s because we have so much transportation. You have 90, you have 71, you can go south, west, east and it’s so easy to just get back and forth or wherever you want to get in the city,” said Berry.
According to the global ‘anti-slavery’ organization, only 1% of victims are rescued from the human trafficking industry, which generates an estimated $150 billion annually.
“Human trafficking is an invisible crime and so in fact it could be happening anywhere. A nail salon, at a restaurant, at a truck stop. And if you don’t know the signs you might just miss it,” said Megan Gallagher, Executive Director of Cleveland Hope Exchange.
Interactive stations were set up throughout the event to recognize all kinds of human trafficking, like those who are caught in sex trafficking, child armies, involuntary domestic servitude and those who are trapped in bonded labor.
“I accepted I was going to die in that life, in that pain. I truly lost faith in all of humanity,” Jessika said, speaking of her time as a trafficking victim to the crowd.
She said at 15 years old, she was manipulated into the world of sex trafficking.
Her story featured in the Netflix documentary “I am Jane Doe.”
Now, leading this walk at age 24 and with two children, she sees faith in humanity once again.
“That alone in a survivor’s eyes means so much, just to know that they’re not alone,” said Berry.