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Ohio Liberator Awards to honor those working to end human trafficking

A number of “modern-day abolitionists” have been nominated for the Ohio Liberator Awards, which honor the dedication and sacrifice of those working toward eliminating human and sex trafficking.

Founded by author, advocate and survivor Theresa Flores, the Liberator Awards were created in honor of William Lloyd Garrison, a prominent American abolitionist, journalist, suffragist and social reformer.

“I created the awards three years ago. I wanted to shine the light on others in the state who were also working very hard and sacrificing to fight human trafficking,” Flores said.

Flores also founded SOAP, which stands for Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution, an outreach program designed to provide hotels, bars and strip clubs with resources to identify sex trafficking. SOAP is partnered with Be FREE Dayton, a nonprofit to both abolish and prevent sex trafficking, to distribute bars of soap wrapped with a red band that provides the National Human Trafficking Hotline (888.373.7888) and resources to high-risk hotels and motels. Be FREE Dayton also acts as the fiscal unit for SOAP.

Each of the nominees from northwest Ohio are actively involved in the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition, founded by The University of Toledo.

Nominations are accepted for seven categories, including individual; student or student organization; civic club, organization or church; volunteer; business; elected official or law enforcement; and survivor.

The top four finalists and winners from each category are determined by popular vote. This year, the awards received 84 nominations and more than 2,000 votes.

The Liberator Awards ceremony will take place Monday, Jan. 19, at Via Vecchia Winery in Columbus, Ohio.

The nominees from northwest Ohio include:

• Dr. Celia Williamson, professor of social work and director of UT’s Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute;

• Kizzy Williams from Second Chance, a social service program that provides comprehensive services to victims of sex trafficking and prostitution;
• Ashley Wickerham, associate director of UT’s Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute;

• Det. Ginnie Barta, Wood County Sheriff;

• Rahab’s Heart, which will be a resource and recovery home for adult women trapped in prostitution

• The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority; and

• Michelle Moore, a survivor of human trafficking.

Many of this year’s nominees also are involved with UT’s International Human Trafficking, Prostitution and Sex Work Conference, which has been educating social service, health-care and criminal justice professionals on human trafficking since 2004.

“I am so honored to be nominated for the Liberator Awards and equally as honored to work alongside so many strong activists from Toledo who were also nominated,” Williamson said.

The inaugural Michigan Liberator Awards ceremony took place Jan. 10.

For more information, visit liberatorawards.com.

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