COLUMBUS, Ohio — Watching people rappel off a building in downtown Columbus is a site that certainly raises some questions, said Executive Director of Gracehaven Scott Arnold.
“Something that’s unique like this causes people to come in here what is that, why do they do that, and it opens the opportunity to talk about human trafficking in our community that most people don’t really know that much about," Arnold said.
Over the Edge to end child sex trafficking is a national fundraiser pairing with Ohio nonprofit Gracehaven. This is its fifth year in Columbus, and, according to Arnold, maybe it's most important year.
“COVID-19 certainly has had effect on trafficking in Ohio in fact with as many people being online as have been there’s studies that have shows trafficking has increased during COVID.”
Gracehaven works to eliminate child sex trafficking around the state and offers care to survivors, a title Meredith knows too well.
“It became just a lifestyle, and it just became something that was easy even when I got away from my trafficker it just became something that I knew and used to survive.”
Meredith is one of the more than 1,100 youths that become victims of sex-trafficking in Ohio every year. It took her seven years to escape, but now that she has, she’s working for the nonprofit to help those going through what she did.
“I think it’s very important to help these girls while they’re younger to try to draw them out of the life so that its not a life pattern.”
The event usually takes place in June but was delayed because of the pandemic. Arnold said since rappelling is a socially distant activity, the group decided to reschedule it.
“It brings a message of hope to our community in a time where there's a lot of discouragement."
Which is a need Arnold and his team are working to meet, and one he hopes events like these continue to spotlight.
“The number one thing I want people to understand is that this is a real need in our community. It’s easy to think that you don’t know anyone that was ever trafficked, but even if you did they probably wouldn’t tell you.”
More than 100 people participated in this year's event and raised more than $240,000.