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Hitting the demand side hard


AG Yost providing seed money, guidance for creation of ‘john schools’ in Ohio

At his third annual Human Trafficking Summit in January, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced the creation of guidelines for courts and communities interested in establishing “john schools” as well as seed money to help develop, or improve, 10 such programs statewide.

“To the sex buyers we’re going to bust in 2022, you’re going back to school, because you’ve got some learning to do!” Yost told the 1,100+ participants in the virtual event. “This education shows sex buyers the ugly truth about the market they encourage and support.”

The new guide and impending grants stem from House Bill 431, which Yost and his Human Trafficking Initiative team pushed the General Assembly to pass in late 2020. The law, which took effect last spring, established legal sanctions aimed specifically at sex buyers, including stiffer fines and a requirement that offenders convicted of “engaging in prostitution” attend a john school, more formally known as a sex buyer education program.

“In order to send buyers to john school, we first have to have john schools to send them to,” the AG said. “There are some programs around the state, but we’re going to need more. And we need to make sure they are effective.”

Since taking office in January 2019, AG Yost has made human trafficking a top priority, focusing particularly on curbing demand.

“As long as sex buyers create demand, human trafficking will continue,” he told summit attendees. “So we need to hit the demand side hard.”

One outgrowth of AG Yost’s Human Trafficking Initiative (HTI) is the annual summit, which for the past three years has brought together an increasing number of health-care workers, law enforcement officers, social-service providers, prosecutors, survivors, community members and others involved in combatting this societal scourge.

The summit provides an opportunity for participants to share expertise and resources, attend workshops, celebrate the successes of the previous year and examine the challenges still ahead.

In his welcoming address for the 2022 event, held on Jan. 22, the attorney general praised this diverse group of professionals for the difficult work they do in the trenches. Human trafficking victims, he noted, have to believe they are worthy of recovery — and that isn’t always easy, given the damage that their traffickers do.

“You all know how a trafficker looks for insecure, half-formed and wounded souls, then pretends to offer them solace, security, fulfillment and love,” he told them. “And when the hook is set, he reels them in and begins to extract his price.”

That price, he noted, “is not only the total surrender of the victim’s body, but also of her will and her identity. … A trafficker deconstructs a victim’s identity until there is little left but a sexual commodity that he can sell for a profit.”

Gone are her name, her unique self and her dignity.

Yost reiterated his unwavering commitment to those who help victims, one by one, take that first step toward recovery on the “Highway to Hope” — and continue moving forward.

Jennifer Rausch, legal director of the AG’s Human Trafficking Initiative, who, along with the rest of her team, plans and coordinates the HT Summit, said the attention given to trafficking survivors at this year’s summit was deliberate.

“An emphasis was placed on survivors as workshop presenters — an intentional focus and reminder of the different pathways from victim to survivor,” Rausch said.

Likewise, the keynote address was delivered by Cyntoia Brown Long, a survivor who has become a nationally recognized advocate for criminal justice reform and trafficking victims.

As for the successes of the past year, AG Yost raised as an example Operation Ohio Knows, a law enforcement sting that took place in October 2021.

The anti-trafficking operation netted 161 arrests — including people seeking to buy sex with children. As part of the operation, participating partners were able to make contact with 51 trafficking victims and offer them help.

The would-be sex buyers who were arrested and charged with engaging in prostitution, the first-degree misdemeanor created as part of House Bill 431, face the enhanced penalty of attending john school.

The educational mandate mirrors that of driver-intervention programs — better known as DUI classes — which have reduced the number of repeat DUI offenders.

“It forces sex buyers to look at the drug addiction, the violence, the child sexual abuse and the degradation that they are responsible for,” AG Yost told summit participants. “We lay it at their feet and tell them, ‘You made this.’ ”

In the months between last year’s summit and the 2022 event, the attorney general’s HTI staff created the john school guide, timed for unveiling — along with the seed money for such programs — during the summit.

“John School: Guidelines for Sex Buyer Education Programs,” available on the AG’s website, is intended to help communities create such programs or enhance existing ones. The guide outlines steps to developing a sex-buyer education program, reviews applicable Ohio law, debunks myths, dives deep into the demand that drives human trafficking and examines the effects of sex buying.

“This road map is backed by support from the attorney general’s HTI team,” Rausch said. “We are always eager to train, share best practices and link organizations facing common problems to find a collective solution.”



The newly created “John School: Guidelines for Sex Buyer Education Programs” can be found on the attorney general’s website at

AG Yost’s office is providing seed money of up to $10,000 each for 10 communities looking to develop a “john school” or improve an existing program in Ohio.

The Human Trafficking Initiative team expects to finalize the grant requirements and application this spring. Questions?  Email


An emphasis was placed on survivors as workshop presenters — an intentional focus and reminder of the different pathways from victim to survivor.

— Jennifer Rausch (shown above)
Legal Director of the Human Trafficking Initiative