Everyday Heroes: Galena's Christi Scott Bartman raises awareness of human trafficking in Appalachia

Galena resident finds a new calling helping community members identify and understand human trafficking in Southeast Ohio.

Brittany Moseley
Columbus Monthly
Christi Scott Bartman is pictured with Joker at L'Equipage horse farm near Sunbury.

Christi Scott Bartman is not very good at sitting still.

The Galena resident starts her days at 7 a.m. with a trip to the barn to take care of her 31-year-old horse, Joker. It’s also where she ends her days, 12 hours later. When she’s not in the barn, she fosters dogs through Canine Companions for Independence, teaches strategic management and public leadership at Ohio State and runs Eyes Up Appalachia, the human trafficking awareness organization she started last year.

Christi’s boundless energy and enthusiasm for helping others have always stood out to her daughter, Ashley Bartman Watson. It’s what inspired Ashley to nominate her mother for Everyday Heroes. When Ashley was a toddler, her mother attended law school, something Ashley, a lawyer herself, finds remarkable. Later, when Ashley was in high school, her mother went back to school again, this time for a doctorate in policy history from Bowling Green State University.

So when Christi retired after a long career in academia and immediately launched Eyes Up Appalachia, her daughter wasn’t surprised. “She's not taking retirement very chill,” Ashley said.

Training the public to recognize signs of human trafficking

For Christi, Eyes Up was a decade in the making. She began researching human trafficking as a professor at Bowling Green State University when a student was interested in writing a paper on it.

“I didn't know a lot about it, but I did know (state) Sen. Teresa Fedor and asked her how I might find some information to better inform the student,” Christi said. Sen. Fedor recommended Detective Pet Swartz from the Toledo Police Department’s Human Trafficking Task Force. After speaking with Swartz, Christi had a new goal. “At that point, I was just like, wow, we have to do something about this,” she said.

Christi Scott Bartman is pictured with Joker at L'Equipage horse farm near Sunbury.

Throughout the next several years, Christi helped with human trafficking awareness when she could, while balancing a full-time career. (Before starting Eyes Up, she was the director of public administration, public policy and legal studies at American Public University System in Charles Town, West Virginia.) And she did her research. She learned that human trafficking looks different across the state, which means education and outreach also varies from county to county. She learned that of the 32 counties that make up Appalachian Ohio, only 16 have coalitions that specifically address human trafficking.

Part of the issue, Christi said, is “we really don't have good measurement of human trafficking incidents in the state. But we do know these certain vulnerabilities that make someone more (likely to be trafficked), which would be like substance abuse disorder, runaways, interaction with more than one government agency such as criminal justice and child welfare. There's clear indicators of risk factors.”

Christi Scott Bartman's mission: Preventing one more person from becoming a victim

Launched last August, Eyes Up Appalachia operates as an initiative within the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio. Eyes Up provides human trafficking education and training to community members that interact with vulnerable populations — health care workers, first responders, hospitality workers — in Southeast Ohio. The organization’s goals are to help people understand what human trafficking is, how to recognize it, how to prevent it and what to do if you see it.

This year, Christi is working with the Ohio Hotel and Lodging Agency to provide training to hotel staff in Athens, Marietta, Cambridge and St. Clairesville. She’s developing programming at Shawnee State University for Human Trafficking Awareness Month in January. She and the rest of the Eyes Up Appalachia team are planning training exercises for Ohio University’s nursing and social work students.

Christi’s current focus is collecting data to better understand how prevalent human trafficking is in Southeast Ohio and the rest of the state. The more she knows, the better equipped Eyes Up Appalachia and other organizations are to predict, and ultimately prevent, human trafficking.

“We can't always look at individuals after the fact. We have to get in there before it happens,” she said. “That’s really kind of my goal: taking this to the next level of, let's make this not happen. Let's not deal with it after the fact. Let's figure out how we can get in there before it happens and do something about it.”