June 14, 2016
CLEVELAND, Ohio - Some 50,000 people are expected to converge on Cleveland during the Republican National Convention in July. And among those who will not be there for political reasons are people who sell others for sex.
Theresa Flores was trafficked as a teen and as a survivor founded S.O.A.P. or "soap" which stands for Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution.
She says there is typically an uptick in prostitution during events like the RNC, and she wants to reach out to help possible victims when they are most in need.
"Which is in the hotel and having to wash up after every man that they serve," says Flores. "I knew that there was a toll-free hotline number that they could call so I just decided to put that number on bars of soap and offer it free to hotels. "
Flores is organizing the event called "S.O.A.P up RNC," on July 9 at Case Western Reserve University.
Volunteers will label and package soap, along with educational materials and missing children posters, and then deliver the items to Cleveland-area hotels.
Ohio is said to be among the worst states for human trafficking activity, and according to the Ohio Attorney General's office, every year nearly 1,000 youth are forced into the sex trade.
S.O.A.P. up RNC will target 225 hotels from Lorain to Ashtabula, and from Cleveland to Akron and Canton. Flores anticipates a spike in prostitution ads online in remote areas.
"Most of those hotels in Cleveland are already booked," says Flores. "So people will be going to farther out hotels, or the traffickers will be staying at hotels in kind of remote areas and then driving the girls into Cleveland where the business is."
She adds they are also hosting educational training on July 9 to teach people the signs of human trafficking, so they can report any suspicious activity.
"If you see young girls being dropped off at hotels and then the driver leaves," says Flores. "We've seen many times young girls with much older men going into a hotel; high-end cars in really low-end motels is another red flag."
Holy Angels Catholic Church and Case Western Reserve University are also involved in the project.