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State and local leaders across the country have made human trafficking a priority. Public concern about the issue is growing, along with wild conspiracy theories propped up by groups like QAnon. But even the agencies tasked with fighting trafficking regularly repeat misleading claims. In Trafficked, a podcast from WYSO Public Radio, reporter Leila Goldstein weaves together the voices of advocates vying for limited resources, exasperated researchers trying to correct falsehoods and trafficking survivors who have made their way out. The series cuts through the misinformation about human trafficking to find out what happens when we get the story wrong.

Series art by Kayla Freeman-Haynes

Latest Episodes
  • The Ohio Attorney General’s office says police sting operations rescue human trafficking victims. But the people called victims in press releases often end up with criminal records. Rescue in Ohio can look like handcuffs, spit hoods, jail time or court dates. In the final episode of Trafficked, Leila Goldstein looks at what rescue means for the rescued. A warning, this story includes profanity and descriptions of violence.
  • When police arrest people for selling sex, it’s sometimes described publicly as an anti-human trafficking effort. Some Ohio officials say arrests are a way to identify and help survivors. But there are also experts who argue that this approach incorrectly conflates sex work with human trafficking and can even make people more vulnerable to being trafficked. In the fourth episode of WYSO’s Trafficked, Leila Goldstein reports from the streets of Columbus, Ohio.
  • While state leaders have put an emphasis on fighting human trafficking in Ohio, one form of the crime, labor trafficking, continues to get less attention from media and law enforcement. In fiscal year 2020, less than 4 percent of federal trafficking convictions focused on labor trafficking, according to the U.S. Department of State. In the third episode of WYSO’s Trafficked, reporter Leila Goldstein looks at how labor trafficking gets left out of the conversation.
  • The internet is awash with conspiracy theories about human trafficking. The QAnon movement and others have promoted hoaxes about global child sex trafficking rings. But even anti-trafficking nonprofits and government agencies have a problem with sharing misinformation. In the second episode of WYSO’s Trafficked, reporter Leila Goldstein debunks some myths and shows what’s at stake. A warning, this story includes descriptions of sexual violence.
  • Officials have put a growing focus on the issue of human trafficking in Ohio and the state has received millions of dollars in federal funding to combat it. The crime is a form of exploitation where a person is made to do some form of labor or sex work through force, fraud or coercion. But there is still a lot people don’t know about human trafficking. Experts say it rarely looks like the abductions by strangers depicted in movies. In the first part of Trafficked from WYSO, hear the story of survivor Alizabeth Watkins and the challenges she’s still up against. A warning, this story includes descriptions of sexual violence.
  • For months, WYSO reporter Leila Goldstein has been looking into misinformation about human trafficking. She wanted to get to the bottom of what human trafficking really looks like in a place like Ohio. So she started by talking to survivors of labor and sex trafficking.