REFERRING OFFICER: Columbus Division of Police Sgt Dana Hess, 3 Precinct, North Central Columbus
ASSIGNMENT: Provide clothing to Tara, a victim of human trafficking, and her children.
If you read the recent series in the The Columbus Dispatch called Suffering on Sullivant Avenue you read about Sgt Hess and her passion for helping victims of human trafficking. In it, Sgt Hess explains her philosophy on prostitution: “Society doesn’t like to talk about prostitution because it’s not pretty. The women out there are homeless and addicted. The statistics will show you that almost to a person, the women who end up selling their bodies were sexually and physically abused as children. You can’t blame someone for doing what they were raised to do, for what they think is normal. They aren’t dirty whores. They are sick, beaten down. My goal is help reprogram officers’ minds to get them to understand that these women are victims and they need help.”
Sgt Hess gives out her personal cell number to the women she talks to in CATCH court--the program that tries to help victims of human trafficking turn their lives around--and tells them to call her if they need anything.
Tara is one of the women Sgt Hess has become very close to, and we met up recently at a thrift store to buy clothing for Tara and her children. Tara grinned shyly at our volunteer when she arrived, saying that she'd found a job and was excited to be turning her life around.
We were able to purchase two full shopping carts of clothes, coats, and shoes for Tara and her children thanks to our emergency fund. Sgt Hess took notes on what we weren't able to find at the thrift store and is going to ask her friends to donate those items.
All of us are hopeful that by showing Tara how much people care about her and her success we will help her continue down this new path she's walking.