Mary Ann O’Malloy: A Star of Our Public Education and Awareness Committee

Mary Ann O’Malloy: A Star of Our Public Education and Awareness Committee

I first met Mary Ann O’Malloy when I attended my first Public Education and Awareness Committee meeting. She was dressed in a bright, colorful dress and awesome boots. She is sassy and not afraid to take charge. O’Malloy is passionate and compassionate towards the people she works with. Mary Ann O’Malloy is the current chair of the Public Education and Awareness Committee. O’Malloy is the Clinical Director at First Step Home, a residential and outpatient treatment program dedicated to women-centered care for women experiencing addiction and all of the related mental health and trauma-related issues that come with addiction. She joined the coalition when she saw a connection between drug use and sex trafficking. We’re highlighting her and her work on the blog because of her dedication in fighting sex trafficking and helping those who have experienced it.

Q: Can you give us an overview of your work at First Step Home?
A: I am the Clinical Director at First Step Home. I’ve been here about 3 years. I run the Sex Trafficking groups and CHANGE group with my colleague, Nicole Litvak.

Q: How did you learn about the issue of human trafficking? What makes you passionate about this issue?
A: I became aware of the intersection of drug use and sex trafficking when I came to FSH. So many women were falling back into old lifestyle behaviors, returning to use or sex work, and one seemed to precipitate the other. My passion comes from wanting to see these women able to return to society, or maybe enter it for the first time. So many of them have been addicted and trafficked since a young age. They may have no education or job skills. How do we take what they know and turn it into something appropriately marketable? Would they be great at customer service, hostessing at a restaurant, or as a care giver? They have unique skills. They can assess a situation in seconds for safety, risk, and potential profit. They can survive on the street. They have survived incredible violence and humiliation. How can we take these qualities and help them stay sober?

Q: What is the connection between human trafficking and addiction? How did you realize that there was a connection between human trafficking and addiction?
A: What I realized watching women relapse, was the intersection of these issues. Women would relapse on drugs, have no money to pay for them, and return to commercial sex work. Or they would falsely believe they could return to sex work, or be pressured back into it, and think they would not use again. Eventually they would. They would return to treatment even more demoralized and ashamed. Then we started addressing the issue before relapse. How has being trafficked effected their self-esteem, self-worth, and use? Did they trade sex for drugs, a place to stay, money, or food? They are worth more than this.

Q: What myths would you like to correct about this issue, about the intersections of drug addiction and trafficking?
A: I don’t know a woman who used street drugs and was not “trafficked.” The pimp is the dope boy. There is no separation. This is ONE issue about the empowerment of women (and children). When women feel safe, have job opportunities, and do not experience abuse and violence, they won’t start using in the first place. Our women use due to trauma. It could be sexual abuse, having been trafficked, physical abuse, or any number of traumas. They will do anything to get their drugs, including sex work. It is a heart breaking cycle. When we break the cycle of use, and work on trauma, they are able to see that they were indeed trafficked by husbands, boyfriends, family members, or the dope boy, and that they can break that cycle, too.

Q: What do you wish people knew about this issue?
A: I wish people understood that this is NOT a choice, that these women do not seek out sex work as an “easy paycheck,” and that it is happening all around us, not just on the corner. I’ve had women who have engaged in “escorting” being “paid” hundreds of dollars (which they never saw), and women who “tricked” for the next “fix.” I’ve had women tell me about their men who would not pay the light bill or buy food for the kids unless they engaged in sex acts with the men, or their associates. It is so sad.

Q: What is something a person could do to support a person in this situation?
A: The first thing someone could do is listen. Non-judgmentally. Don’t lecture or come at her with platitudes. Offer support. Know available resources: the hotline number, victim services, and detox. Ask her if she has a safe place to go. If not, encourage her to start calling resources. Make the call with her. It may save her life.

Author: Bhumika Patel
March 24, 2015



Understanding Syringe Exchange Programs: A Look at the Cincinnati Exchange Project

Understanding Syringe Exchange Programs: A Look at the Cincinnati Exchange Project

The Cincinnati Exchange Project (CEP) is the syringe exchange program in the Cincinnati area. The purpose of this program is to increase education and awareness about drug use and harm reduction; this project intends to help the drug using community healthier and increase drug treatment enrollment. Any drug user can visit one of the designated locations at the designated times to get connected to someone who will exchange a “dirty” syringe for a clean syringe. While the participant is at the site, they will receive free, rapid HIV and Hepatitis C testing, education regarding drug use, safer injection practices, safer sex, as well as information about where to get drug treatment and medical care.

The Cincinnati Exchange Project is based on a harm reduction model. Syringe-sharing can lead to the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C; syringe exchange programs reduce the likelihood of drug users sharing syringes and re-using syringes. While the CEP cannot force individuals to stop using drugs, it can help individuals engage in safer behavior and connect them to drug treatment and medical services. Several studies by organizations like the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health show that syringe exchange programs can reduce the spread of diseases like HIV and do not increase drug use by the individual or by the community.

The CEP is confidential and free, and there are trained health educators who can answer any questions a participant might have. On Wednesdays from 4-7PM, the CEP is located behind the Church of Our Savior at 65 E. Hollister. On Mondays from 3-6PM, the CEP is parked on Cooper St. between Cherry and Colerain.

Author: Bhumika Patel
March 20, 2015


Interview with Michael Sheline

The ESC team is super excited about the conference. We’re excited because we’re grateful to have the opportunity to bring together so many people around this issue, and we’re also really excited about being able to bring in tons of amazing speakers and presenters to speak. One of the speakers I’m most excited to hear is Michael Sheline, the Assistant Section Chief in the Ohio Attorney General’s Crime Victims Services Section. As the Assistant Chief, he administers the federal and state Victims of Crimes Act funding and the Ohio Rape Crisis Trust Fund, which provides over $20 million annuals to organizations serving survivors of violent crimes. He also assists in developing policy and legislation related to victimization. Mr. Sheline has a special interest in shaping policy that focuses on preventing the sexual exploitation of transitional-age youth and addresses the needs of LGTBQ youth who are homeless or have “aged out” of institutional care.

For our conference, Michael Sheline will be doing a presentation called “The Vulnerability of LGBTQ Youth and Males”. In this presentation, Mr. Sheline will address experiences this populations faces in their families, communities, schools, and faith based organizations which often leads to low self-esteem and self-worth which makes them prime targets for “grooming” or other unhealthy and unsafe relationships. Mr. Sheline will also touch on the subject of male exploitation and explain why it is under reported and give suggestions on serving this population.

I had to opportunity to ask Mr. Sheline a few questions related to his work and his interest in the issue of human trafficking, and here are his responses.

Q: Can you give us a brief overview of the work you do for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office?

A: I am the Assistant Chief of the Crime Victims Services Section which works to help victims of crime become survivors. I administer the federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) and State Victims Assistance Act (SVAA) funding programs in Ohio, which provide grants to organizations that provide direct services to help victims of violent crime. I also work on policy related to expanding sexual assault services, and providing services to transitional aged youth who have been sexually exploited or commercialized.

Q: When and how did human trafficking become an important issue for you?

A: Human trafficking became an important issue to me a couple of years ago when I began working with homeless youth shelters throughout the state. We noticed a large part of the population they were serving had not only been sexually victimized on the streets but also prior to being homeless or unattended. I feel we have a big opportunity to stop a cycle of violence with this population especially among transitional aged youth.

Q: What is one thing you wish everyone knew about human trafficking?

A: It does not only affect girls, we have a large number of transitional aged males who are sexually exploited. The cases are often overlooked and under reported. Very few studies have been done in the U.S. highlighting this issue.

Q: How can an average person, a community member or student, engage in this issue?

A: Education, awareness, and understanding the impact of stigma. Do not promote or participate in the stereotypes of the sexual exploitation of humans.

We’re looking forward to hearing more about his work and about these vulnerable populations at the conference and we hope to see you all there!

Author: Bhumika Patel
January 30, 2015


New Team Addition – Ashleigh

Ashleigh Image

Ashleigh Yockey is 24 years old, and currently in her last semester in the Bachelors of Social Work program at Northern Kentucky University and will graduate this May.  She was born and raised in Sardinia, OH which is in Brown County and about an hour east of Cincinnati.  She graduated from Eastern Brown High School in 2009.  Ashleigh attended her first year of college at Shawnee State University where she majored in Early Childhood Education and also played soccer, on a scholarship.  Ashleigh then transferred to University Cincinnati Clermont College and attained her Associate’s degree in June of 2012.  After transferring to Northern Kentucky University Ashleigh choose to major in social work because she feels that she can help a variety of people and be a part of so much more.  Ashleigh’s parents are still happily married and have been for 28 years.  She has one sister who is 21 years old and she, too, will graduate with her degree as a surgical technician this May.  Ashleigh currently resides in Hyde Park.

Author: Kellie Gaustad
January 30,2015


New Coalition Schedule

Hello All!

In an effort to improve our coalition meetings, we are announcing a new structure which will focus on topical conversations for each meeting.  After a brief presentation to familiarize us all with the topic, we will have a discussion to learn from you all as to how we can better support combating human trafficking in these areas.  We will of course also have our state and committee meeting updates and have time for other pertinent discussions and happenings.

The schedule for the next 6 months will be as follows:


Visit our calendar for other upcoming events.

We look forward to seeing you all there!

Author: Erin Meyer
January 30, 2015


New ESC Team!

ESC is proud to introduce some new additions to our team!


Bhumika Patel is currently serving as the Public Education Specialist as a member of AmeriCorps. She has been passionate about gender justice, and since attaining her M.A. in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, and she’s committed to creating a career around her passion. Human trafficking is an issue she did not know much about before beginning her service with End Slavery Cincinnati, but she is now determined to educate the public on its existence and helping the people who have experienced it.

Betsy Brown recently started working as the new Anti-Human Trafficking Program Case Manager. She is originally from Greenville, Ohio. Betsy graduated from Wittenberg University in 2009 with a B.A. in psychology. She received her Master’s in Social Work from Dominican University in 2012, concentrating on international social work. She is excited to be working alongside End Slavery Cincinnati to help raise awareness of human trafficking in the community, and to work alongside survivors to help those who have been impacted firsthand from human trafficking.

Kellie Gaustad is an AmeriCorps member currently serving End Slavery Cincinnati as the Volunteer Management Specialist. Kellie has been passionate about social justice since the beginning of her college career and has allowed it to guide her through her professional choices. She spent her senior year of college serving on the executive board of the largest social justice organization on Xavier Campus, Alternative Breaks, organizing volunteer events and forming spring break trips for participants. She recently graduated from Xavier University in May with a Bachelor’s of Liberal Arts and a minor in gender and diversity studies. She plans on continuing her education to advance her career in the public service. Kellie likes to ski, read, watch Netflix, and go hiking with her dog.

Carolyn Hulla-Meyer is currently serving as Regional Coalition Specialist for End Slavery Cincinnati at The Salvation Army. Carolyn obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Miami University in 2006, where she double-majored in American Studies and History. While studying civil rights, she became passionate about providing service to the public. She entered the field as an Employment Specialist, assisting homeless women in their efforts to obtain gainful employment. She also provided volunteer services to the Women’s Crisis Center in Northern Kentucky, and a local politician’s mayoral campaign. She initially joined End Slavery Cincinnati in 2012 as a Public Education Fellow, where she developed the train-the-trainer training modules, and assisted with coalition-building efforts. When this position became available, she jumped at the chance to continue her work in Anti-Human Trafficking. Carolyn is working to obtain her Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Northern Kentucky University.

Jenni Cattran recently graduated Summa Cum Laude from Northern Kentucky University with a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and an area of concentration in Social Work. She is currently enrolled in the Master’s of Social Work program at the University of Cincinnati and is interested in doing macro level social work that will help women.

Aimie Willhoite is in her 2nd year of graduate school working toward her Master’s of Social Work. She has worked in the health care field for over 30 years where she started in the emergency room at TriHealth and left after 22 years to work in cardiac research. Her most recent position was with their drug and alcohol program. Her passion is to work with vulnerable people through the Anti-Human Trafficking Program or other similar programs that address victims of trauma. Aimie loves people, photography, coffee shops, laughter, music, reading, and God’s great earth. Aimie believes you should treat all people with kindness.

Author: Kellie Gaustad
November 4th, 2014



Smart Consumerism

As the holidays approach many are designing their wish lists and preparing for the busiest shopping season of the year. We all have budgets in our mind, but have you ever wondered why some of our products are so cheap? These days it is hard to find a product that has not been touched by labor exploitation at some point in the supply chain.

Slavery can be found in consumer products such as clothing, jewelry, cosmetics, electronics, sports equipment, rugs, agricultural produce, sugar, tea, coffee, chocolate, and many other products. Often products, like clothing, may even have exploitation at multiple points in the supply chain. For example children may have been used to pick the cotton of a shirt, while workers were held in situations of slavery and forced to sew the clothing. Slavery touches each one of us as a consumer.

An organization called Made in A Free World has published a quiz online to tell consumers how many slaves, on average, have touched products they purchase. At individuals can profile their current lifestyle and see how it supports modern day slavery. This site then urges companies to address discrepancies in their supply chain. The Not for Sale Campaign has also been addressing divergences in supply chains by launching a website and mobile app called Free2Work. The application serves as an evaluation and rating system for companies worldwide. The App gives consumers real-time information about a products, labor standards, and corporate practices as well as furthers their engagement through their purchasing decisions.

The efforts of these organizations have helped to equip consumers with the power they need to align their purchasing power with their values. By using tools such as these, individuals can significantly reduce their slavery footprint and attempt to purchase products free of labor exploitation. Being an informed consumer is imperative to sending a message to companies about their labor practices.


Fair trade is a social movement which aims to help producers achieve better trading conditions and to promote sustainability. Fair trade products come from farms and workers who are fairly compensated for their work. Cincinnati is no stranger to this movement. Below is a list of some local businesses that strive to make fair trade an integral part of their business model.

  • Maumee World Traders – Housed in Findley Market, this business carries handcrafted local items, as well as a large assortment of Fair Trade goods from nations around the world.
  • Ten Thousand Villages – “handcrafted gift items, personal accessories and home décor from artisans in over 35 countries in developing regions”
  • Chocolats Latour – “gourmet, fair-trade, locally handcrafted chocolates”
  • It’s Only Fair – “Many of our products are made by women who are survivors of human trafficking & prostitution, while others are part of small income generating projects that are focused on empowering the poor.”
  • Community Blend – “Community Blend serves fair-trade coffee, tea and chocolate, as well as delicious sandwiches and locally made baked goods.”

Author: Kellie Gaustad
November 24th, 2014


ISIS and Human Trafficking

ISIS is one of the richest terrorist organizations in the world. They’ve gained their wealth from theft, extortion schemes, kidnapping and ransoming, and from seizing oil fields (their most lucrative venture, gaining them anywhere from $1-3 million). Mainstream media focuses on their kidnapping of Western journalists and their seizures of oil field, but I want to bring your attention to human trafficking. ISIS’s agenda extends to the control of women’s bodies. There are records of ISIS supporting the assault and enslavement of non-Muslim women . The UN reports that ISIS has committed countless acts of sexual violence against the women, girls and boys of various minority groups they deem inferior.

One of the minority groups targeted by ISIS is called the Yazidis, a Krudish ethno-religious group primarily located in the Nineveh Province of Iraqi Kurdistan. ISIS is targeting groups like the Yazidis and others like them in their campaign to “purify” Iraq. ISIS, because they believe the Yazidis are “pagans” for worshipping differently, has been assaulting women and girls, forcing them into marriage and sometimes slavery, forcing captives to convert to Islam, and kidnapping boys for religious or military training. ISIS boasts and defends their actions in their propaganda magazine by saying enslaving infidels and taking women as concubines is part of Shariah .

While I bring attention to and condemn ISIS’s actions, I recognize that people all over the world of various religious and ethnic backgrounds have engaged in human trafficking. ISIS is targeting minority groups such as the Yazidis because they have been persecuted historically and are a vulnerable population. I read about these stories in the news about atrocities happening in far off places by terrible people, but I know these atrocities are not isolated to the far off nor are they only committed by people who are obviously bad. Human trafficking occurs all over the world, in communities like my own as well as in far off regions of Iraq and Syria, and traffickers can be anyone, the people in my community as well as terrorists organizations like ISIS.

Author: Bhumika Patel
October 10th, 2014


Whatever Happened to Bringing Back Our Girls?

On April 14, 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from the Government Secondary School in Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria. They did so in order to protest the perceived Westernization of Nigeria as well as to force the girls into sexual slavery. Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau sent out a video in which he states that the girls should not have been in school, but rather married. He also asserts his belief that it was his religious right to make people into his slaves. Some of the girls were able to escape or were rescued, but it seems like most are still being held by Boko Haram. Recently, we received news that the Nigerian government had been in negotiations with Boko Haram regarding getting the girls back, but Boko Haram has engaged in a string of kidnappings since this news that dims the hope that the girls will ever be returned .

While Boko Haram’s actions seem medieval, they reflect a patriarchal ideology that is prevalent all over the world. Patriarchy says women are not as valuable as men, and we can see that in Boko Haram’s actions as well as in the actions of ISIS and other terrorist organizations. They treat women like objects on which to enact their ideology. Their actions are a form of militant patriarchy in which they seek to assert and re-assert their dominance over women and over groups deemed inferior. This Islamic militant patriarchy is not only form of militant patriarchy; various other religious groups (Christians, Hindus, and others) have also engaged in sectarian violence against women and minority for similar reasons. The actions of Boko Haram and ISIS are simply the most recent.

As we reflect on the actions of groups like Boko Haram and ISIS, we cannot think about their actions as isolated incidents. Their extremist views and actions did not spring into existence on their own. All over the world, people tolerate “milder” forms of patriarchy such as street harassment or jokes about women’s (in)abilities. People tolerate them because they think these behaviors and attitudes are unchangeable or so mild as to not cause any harm, yet I believe they create a breeding ground for more extremist attitudes which say that women are objects for men’s pleasure or that women are not worth anything except what value men give them.

This same ideology can be a part of the motivation for the demand of purchasing sex from women, men, and children in our community. Understanding these motivations is part of how we can combat demand and sex trafficking here in Cincinnati.

Author: Bhumika Patel
September 18th, 2014


Street Outreach – A Volunteer’s Perspective

I was so excited when I received an internship at End Slavery Cincinnati and found out that they did street outreach. (Like, really excited! Kind of the same way my friends have felt when they go to India or Thailand except I wasn’t nervous about being on a plane.) I’ve always thought that you can’t truly understand a situation or support anyone from that situation unless you are willing and able to connect with that person from a real place.

When we met at The Salvation Army my first night out, I was a little nervous but more curious of what the night would bring. This is what I am passionate about, increasing victim identification, letting people know that we are here and that we will continue to be here, rescuing men, women, and children from the commercial sex trade. I felt safe with our small group of people and felt that we were all trained and prepared for how to react in situations that may come up.

We drove around handing out goody bags that contained hygiene products, water, a few snacks, a Bible, and condoms. Separately we give a resource card so that if the ladies we came in contact with feel they are trapped in a situation, then they know there are people that can and will offer support. We weren’t able to talk to all of the women out there, and part of me wonders if those we couldn’t talk to had someone watching them (i.e. pimp/trafficker) who would know that we weren’t “John’s” and weren’t going to offer a profit for the night.

Driving through the city, and observing the activity that takes place can be-heart breaking and gut-wrenching, to say the least. I love this city. I love the people it, and in whatever capacity I can, I will serve them. If that means going out at night and building relationships that promote trust and safety, then that is what we will do.

All in all, it was such a positive experience and wonderful to have the opportunity to engage with so many wonderful people!

Author: Carleigh Chatfield
January 10, 2014

If you would like to join the team, or see other volunteer opportunities, click here.