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Three honored for working to combat human trafficking

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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) -

Human trafficking is a worldwide issue gaining a lot of steam, and it's hitting closer to home.

Three people from the Cincinnati area were honored at the Freedom Center Thursday evening for the work they do to put a stop to human trafficking.

The inaugural Cincinnati Trafficking in Persons Report heroes are Don Gerred from Crossroads Church, FBI agent Pam Matson and Carol Thornton-Gamble from Cincinnati Union Bethel's Off the Streets program.

Four people were accused this week of enslaving a mentally disabled woman and her child in Ashland, OH.  Police say they would beat her, lock her in the basement and force her to work.

That's exactly what these honorees are trying to fight.

"There have been studies about how bad the problem has been here in the Cincinnati area and all of Ohio, for that matter.  Let's just say it's busy enough, and there are enough cases to keep us quite busy," said honoree, Pam Matson.

Matson works with human trafficking cases in her position with the FBI and with End Slavery Cincinnati.  This issue is gaining national attention, but might be lesser known here at home.

"Most people in Cincinnati don't see how much trafficking is going on, and it is really going on.  It's changed from a lot of the drug dealers stopped selling drugs, and now they're trying to sell flesh," said honoree, Carol Thornton-Gamble.

Honoree Don Gerred works to help women saved from sex trafficking in India.  He says there are similarities in the activities at home and abroad, and the statistics are eye-opening.

"If you look at the studies of girls that are in prostitution, women that are in prostitution, what you find is that, on average, greater than 50% entered into prostitution at age 13," said Gerred.

At one time, Thornton-Gamble was homeless and addicted to drugs.  She knew the street lifestyle all too well.  But now, she's trying to change lives.

"I've been clean for 18 years.  What's for me is, I'm able to go back and help the ladies and give them hope in a hopeless situation," added Thornton-Gamble.

With these three were people from all over the world who were honored for their work, as well.  They were in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday for an award ceremony at the White House with Secretary of State John Kerry.

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