Hundreds of thousands of women, boys and girls each year are forced to sell their bodies as victims of sex trafficking. It happens in every community around the world, and it certainly happens in the United States, including in Toledo, Ohio.
Reports show Toledo ranks third for cases of human trafficking and sex slavery among large cities with federal Innocence Lost Task Forces, an FBI initiative to rescue exploited children. However, is also is home to one of the largest international conferences to combat the issue.
The Ninth Annual International Human Trafficking, Prostitution and Sex Work Conference will take place Thursday and Friday, Sept. 27-28, at The University of Toledo to share the latest in research, advocacy and programs to effectively respond.
“Sex trafficking does not only happen in other countries or other communities. It permeates our society in a way that would shock most people,” said Dr. Celia Williamson, UT professor of social work and founder of Second Chance, a social service program located in Toledo that provides comprehensive assistance to victims of domestic sex trafficking and prostitution.
“The victims of this heinous crime need our support, and the perpetrators of underage prostitution need harsher penalties. It is imperative that researchers, social workers, health-care professionals and criminal justice professionals work together collaboratively to combat this problem,” she said.
The oldest and largest of its kind in the U.S., the conference will feature more than 40 presentations from experts, including survivor and author Theresa Flores, who will talk about survivors finding their voices, and representatives from the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking in Denver, who will present research on the influences of law enforcement attitudes on investigations.
State Rep. Teresa Fedor also will provide information about the new Safe Harbor human trafficking legislation signed by Gov. John Kasich this year that strengthens penalties for perpetrators of underage prostitution and protects juvenile victims of prostitution.
A number of trafficking survivors will share their stories, and researchers from around the world will convene to share knowledge about the personalities of “Johns” and the damaging effects of sexualizing children. In total, seven countries and 12 U.S. states will be represented.
For registration details and more information on the conference, visit prostitutionconference.com.