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Though the shops along Sullivant Ave. Listen Listening WOSU agreed not to use her name—the woman feared retribution from her drug dealer. When I ask what brought her out here, her response is direct:. She even managed to get clean and stay sober at one point, but that only lasted a year. She says she relapsed and wound up here.
Prostitution is not new to the city of Columbus, but according to data from Columbus Police, it's increasing: In each of the past two years, the number of prostitution-related arrests has increased by 30 percent. No neighborhood sees more of this activity than the Hilltop, and both local advocates and law enforcement agree it's being fueled by the opioid epidemic.
Despite the flurry of attention to fighting the crisis around Central Ohio, when it comes to prostitution, local policies haven't adjusted to stop the cycle. Sister Nadine hands out sack lunches to women in the Hilltop in Columbus. At 67, Sister Nadine is not your typical advocate for victims of human trafficking. While handing the women their lunches, she peppers them with questions about their safety and health. She calls everyone "honey.
In the last year, she's managed to help one woman—that she knows of—get off the streets. But these women live such transient lives—often they're victims of violence, incarceration and fatal overdoses—that she rarely sees the same one twice. Sister Nadine says she's learned to spot these women by their walk—the way they wander without any particular place to go. Or how they wait at bus stops, but never board any buses.
Or how thin these women all seem to be. One of the women Sister Nadine has helped, now in recovery from her drug addiction. The women Sister Nadine serves lunches to, as well as several women I interviewed for this story, all say they regularly go days without food or sleep.