Every single day an estimated 3,200 people are sold or kidnapped and forced into some form of slavery. Second only to drug dealing, human trafficking is one of the largest enterprises that results in population displacement.

Sister2Sister, an African American women’s group on campus invited Elesondra “Ele” DeRomano, the leader of Standing Together Against Real Slavery (S.T.A.R.S) to campus Nov. 9.

Ele poses with Sisters2Sisters members (Northern Review photo/Harleigh Bellmann)

Ele was born to a pimp who had prostituted her mother along with other women and girls in Detroit, MI. After her father killed two drug dealers who disrespected him, Ele was placed into foster care at age four. During her time in the system, she was sexually assaulted repeatedly before a Mennonite family adopted her. The foster system, however, often seeks to reunite children with their parents over adopting them out, so as a result, Ele was returned to her mother whose new boyfriend continued to molest her.

By the time she was 11, Ele started a gang of 130 girls called “Young Girls, Incorporated.” Around age 13, a 22-year old drug dealer broke into her house, and she shot him. She then rolled up his body in a carpet and left on him on the curb. She was later caught and sentenced to six years in juvenile detention center for felons and then 20 years in an adult prison. For the first three years, she was placed in solitary confinement where the male staff repeatedly raped her.

At seventeen, she was released from juvenile detention and placed with a Christian family in Toledo who had tried to save her for many years. She lived with them for a time before she became worried that she was corrupting their children. She then returned to the streets in Toledo, where she became addicted to crack and was prostituted once again. She had three children during that time, and shortly after the birth of her last child, her now ex-husband helped to get her clean and off the streets.

Ele founded Wake Up Youth, a program dedicated to educating and empowering inner-city youth. In 2005, she assisted the FBI with their “Precious Cargo” case in Harrisburg, PA, where 151 people were recovered; 78 of them were from Toledo with over half of them being children. During a brief stint in jail for pushing a probation officer, Wake Up Youth was officially disbanded. In 2011, she created S.T.A.R.S.

While Ele travels to spread her message through Ohio’s prison systems, youth programs, and the streets, her primary focus is on street outreach where she can talk with the people working the streets and provide them with information, an ear to listen, and items necessary to survive.

Following her tale, Ele opened the floor questions. The most important are listed below:

What are the indicators that someone is being prostituted?

  1. Have things that they can’t afford
  2. Hang around with a different crowd
  3. Have a tattoo that appears to be a brand
  4. Have 2 cell phones
  5. Miss a lot of school
  6. Unknown people pick them up
  7. Sudden changes and odd behavior

What are the different kinds of pimps?

  1. Gorilla: rule with violence
  2. Finesse: treat the operation as a business
  3. Romeo: treats the mark like a significant other, buys them expensive presents until they pimp them out because the mark “owes” them
    • This situation is often called grooming

What are the indicators that someone you know is a pimp?

  1. Suddenly have lots of money that can’t be explained by their job
  2. Talks about having someone do something for them
  3. Has things that they can’t afford

How do pimps/traffickers get victims?

  1. There’s recruiter in nearly every high school/college
    • Recruiters track down and manipulate vulnerable people
  2. Some recruiters are paid to find out exactly what a target likes and pass that information on to a trafficker
    • This information can be used to lure targets from home

If you’d like to make a donation of hygiene goods or clothes to S.T.A.R.S., you can leave them with Mya Ray of Sister 2 Sister. If you’d like to make a monetary donation, S.T.A.R.S. has a website at this link.

If you see or suspect anything, you can contact the Human Trafficking Hotline by calling: 1-888-373-7888; texting 233733; or chatting online at this link.

In the words of Elesondra “Ele” DeRomano, “if something doesn’t seem right, say something. You can save someone’s life.”

Ele (sporting ONU merch) takes a picture with attendees (Northern Review photo/Harleigh Bellmann)

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