Human trafficking is happening in your community. It’s at the mall and at movie theaters. The girls and women being sold for sex are from your community. And, according to UT researchers, these statements are true in most every community in the nation — particularly Toledo.
According to the Trafficking in Persons Study Commission, Toledo is the third largest city in human trafficking or sex slavery. In Ohio, there are estimates of more than 1,800 children being trafficked annually.
But also in Toledo each year is one of the largest international conferences to fight the growing epidemic.
On Thursday and Friday, Sept. 29 and 30, The University of Toledo will be hosting its Eighth Annual International Human Trafficking, Prostitution and Sex Work Conference in the Student Union from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The conference will feature national and international speakers and researchers to hold workshops and presentations. Topics and speakers will include:
• “SOAP: Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution — An Outreach Campaign” by Teresa Flores, director of training and education for Gracehaven, an organization in Ohio that focuses on domestic minor sex trafficking.
• “Pornography and Human Trafficking: How the Sex Industry is Impacting the Health of the Nation” by Noel Bouché, vice president of Pure Hope, a Cincinnati organization that provides Christian solutions in a sexualized culture.
• “Ending the Sex Trafficking of Children” by Deborah Richardson of the Center for Civil and Human Rights, Dr. Nancy Boxill of Union Institute and Sharon Allen of the Board of Commissioners of Atlanta.
• “The Vicious Impact of HIV/AIDS Scourge in Uganda to the Phenomena of Prostitution and Human Trafficking” by Edward Muwanga, former Uganda city councilman.
Research will be presented by human trafficking research leaders, including Dr. Laura Lederer, as well as those from Ireland, Bangladesh, Russia, Indonesia and Africa.
“The people being exploited for sex are our daughters, our sisters and the family members of people we know,” said Dr. Celia Williamson, lead researcher for the Trafficking in Persons Study Commission and professor in UT’s Department of Criminal Justice and Social Work. “Only in 2010 did Ohio finally make human trafficking itself a felony, and it is only through interagency and international partnerships that we can understand the scope of the problem and start to combat it.”
Williamson estimated there are 100,000 children trafficked in the United States with another 300,000 at risk.
“If we can get people to start recognizing some of the signs of sex trafficking and if we can get people to start to understand that a 15-year-old girl forced to sell her body is a victim and not a criminal, those will be steps in the right direction,” Williamson said. “This conference is an opportunity to share tactics that have been successful in trafficking education, prevention and prosecution of sex traffickers.”
For more information, go to prostitutionconference.com.