Students participate at a rally for the Why Us? Anti-Human Trafficking student organization at Ohio State in March 2018. Credit: Courtesy of Why Us

According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, Ohio is ranked No. 4 in the country when it comes to reported human-trafficking cases, but Ohio State student organization Why Us? is looking to bring awareness to this.

Why Us? brings attention to the alarming rise in human trafficking throughout the state. The group aims to spread awareness of human trafficking on college campuses.

While it is a relatively new organization on campus, it has made early strides and hopes to make more that will leave a lasting impact at Ohio State.

“We didn’t feel like there was an organization doing so,” Ray’Chel Wilson, vice president of Why Us?, said. “Although there are many great anti-human-trafficking organizations, we just wanted to be a force of our own against human trafficking.”

In its short time as a student group, Why Us? was recognized at Mahogany Moments, Ohio State’s annual 40th Annual African American Heritage Festival, for outstanding student organization.

Its main goal is to spread information on the rising threat specifically on college campuses, as well as help people prepare for human-trafficking-related situations, but the group is also open to collaborating with other student organizations.

“We do try and obtain strategic partnerships. The group held a rally earlier this year,” Wilson said. “It was one of my favorite events with Why Us?”

The organization also had Barbara Freeman, founder of The Freeman Project, a nonprofit organization that provides counsel and resources to human-trafficking victims, and Elaine Richardson, professor of literacy studies, as guest speakers, both of whom are survivors of human trafficking and have worked with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

Wilson said the more people are aware of the problem, the more cases will be recognized and reported in the state and the more laws will be passed to criminalize human-trafficking acts, such as the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, signed by U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, that lifts “barriers that prevent the federal government, states and victims of sex trafficking from pursuing justice” against human trafficking, according to Beatty’s website.

Why Us? is looking to expand its group. It currently has 15 members, but is seeking more involvement, specifically from men.

“Although our group is diverse in many other ways, we only have two or three guys who participate with us,” Wilson said. “We can only win this battle with solidarity and cooperation.”