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Sex trafficking conference at UT to share advances in addressing issue

Hundreds of thousands of women, boys and girls each year are forced to sell their bodies as victims of sex trafficking. It happens around the world and it certainly happens in the United States, in every community, in Toledo, Ohio.

President Barack Obama discussed the issue at the Clinton Global Initiative on Sept. 25, saying human trafficking “must be called by its true name – ‘modern slavery.'”

“Our fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time, and the United States will continue to lead it,” Obama said.

While reports show that of those cities with federal Innocence Lost Task Forces Toledo is the third largest city for human trafficking and sex slavery, it 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 Sept. 27-28 at The University of Toledo will 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 Celia Williamson, PhD, UT professor of social work and founder of Second Chance, a social service program located in Toledo that provides comprehensive services 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 justiceprofessionals work together collaboratively to combat this problem.”

The oldest and largest of its kind in the U.S., the conference will feature more than 40 presentations from experts such as survivor and author Theresa Flores talking about survivors finding their voices and representatives from the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking in Denver presenting 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.

The conference will take place 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday (Sept. 27-28) in the Student Union on the UT Main Campus.

Click here for a full schedule of events.

Click here for biographies of the presenters and abstracts of their talks.

For more information visit or contact Meghan Cunningham at 419.530.2410 or

Williamson has been quoted as an expert researcher by media outlets such as ABC News Primetime, New York Times, USA Today, CNN, and in the Toledo Blade series about the FBI Innocence Lost investigations, among others.

Media Coverage
The Blade (Sept. 23, 2012)
13 ABC and WNWO (Sept. 28, 2012)
Conklin & Company (Oct. 1, 2012)


is UT's Director of University Communications. Contact her at 419.530.2410 or
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