10th annual sex trafficking conference at UToledo combats pervasive issueBy Meghan Cunningham : September 20th, 2013
A decade ago victims of human trafficking in Ohio were treated like criminals and those who forced them into modern day slavery faced less severe criminal charges.
But the efforts of Celia Williamson, UToledo professor of social work, and her International Human Trafficking, Prostitution and Sex Work Conference celebrating it’s tenth anniversary next week changed that.
Ohio passed last year the Safe Harbor Law that increases penalties for adults who profit from human trafficking and treats juveniles forced into prostitution as victims with access to treatment, counseling and other services.
The law was championed by Rep. Teresa Fedor (D. Toledo) who now is advocating for the End Demand Act that would further address trafficking in the state. The proposed law increases penalties for the solicitation of minors.
“It is imperative we build on this momentum in Ohio to continue to make great strides in increasing awareness about trafficking and curbing the practice that continues to victimize far too many young people,” said Williamson, who also is the founder of Second Chance, a social service program located in Toledo that provides comprehensive services to victims of domestic sex trafficking and prostitution and a member of the Ohio Attorney Generals Human Trafficking Commission.
The 10th annual International Human Trafficking, Prostitution and Sex Work Conference will take place Thursday and Friday Sept. 26-27 in the Student Union on the UT Main Campus will continue to raise awareness and effect change.
The event will feature a keynote address 12:30 p.m. Thursday by survivors and activists Sarita Skagnes and Theresa Flores. Skagnes is the author of the book “Just a Daughter” that shares her story of being exchanged by her parents for a boy because they wanted a son and how she was left behind to work as a maid servant. Flores is the author of “The Slave across the Street” about her experience as a sex trafficking victim when she was a teenager living in suburban Detroit.
The conference will feature more than 45 presenters on topics such as recruitment in jails, how hotels and motels facilitate trafficking, transgender youth in the sex trade and more. International components include examining trafficking concerns in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Turkey.
For more information on the conference, visit www.prostitutionconference.com.