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UToledo to host 12th Annual Human Trafficking and Social Justice Conference

U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, both from Ohio, have worked to help put an end to human trafficking.

Both senators played a key role in the passing of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, a bipartisan and comprehensive trafficking bill that enhances services for victims of human trafficking, as well as for runaway youth who are especially vulnerable to being trafficked. The bill also expands victim restitution and support services, and provides additional resources to law enforcement to help improve human trafficking reporting and investigation.

Portman’s Bringing Missing Children Home and Ensuring a Better Response for Victims of Child Sex Trafficking Acts were signed into law, and provisions of his Combat Human Trafficking Act were included as part of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. Portman is the co-chair of the Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking.

Brown proposed three amendments that were included in the bill; one was Amendment 310, which provides grants to local law enforcement for tracking down homeless youth and runaways, as well as grants to support retired law enforcement who volunteer to assist in these investigations.

Brown consulted Dr. Celia Williamson, director of The University of Toledo’s Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute, on the amendment, which was inspired by a group of retired Toledo FBI agents who approached his office about the need for additional resources in the field.

Williamson has worked on the issue of human trafficking for the past 22 years conducting research, building programs, and working with legislators to pass necessary laws.

The 12th Annual Human Trafficking and Social Justice Conference will be held Thursday and Friday, Sept. 10 and 11, in the UToledo Student Union. Hosted by The University of Toledo’s Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute and the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition, the conference brings together researchers, practitioners and others to educate attendees on human trafficking and lay the groundwork for future collaborative research, advocacy and program development.

Two keynote speakers will address conference attendees this year. Baldemar Velasquez, president and founder of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee and former UToledo board member, will speak Thursday at 12:30 p.m. Velasquez is an internationally recognized leader in the farmworker and immigrants rights movements, with a commitment to justice and human dignity. On Friday at 12:30 p.m., Dr. Mark Sherry, UToledo associate professor of sociology, will discuss research and advocacy for and with human trafficking victims with disabilities.

More than 70 presenters from around the world will address attendees at the two-day conference. Speakers will include:

•   Awkash Kumar, a PhD research scholar from the Central University of Gujarat, India, will present “Targeting Poverty: Risk of Trafficking Among Women and Children in India.”
•   Dr. Kamala London, UT associate professor and associate chair of psychology, will discuss “Developing Rapport During Forensic Interviews With Adolescents: A Review of Evidence-Based Practices.”
•   Judge Connie Zemmelman, Chief Probation Officer Demecia Wilson, and Alicia Komives from the Lucas County Juvenile Court will present “Understanding Trauma and Its Impact on a Person’s Life.”

A number of presenters are survivors of human trafficking: D’Lita Miller; Michelle Moore, a local survivor; Dr. Joel Filmore, victim of homelessness, drug addiction and prostitution in Chicago who went on to earn his doctorate in counselor education and supervision from Northern Illinois University; and Barbara Amaya, senior technical adviser on survivor services at SeraphimGLOBAL, an organization that provides technical support for human rights and humanitarian efforts throughout the world.

More than 300 juniors and seniors are expected to participate in high school workshops taking place Wednesday, Sept. 9, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

UT’s Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute opened in April with a mission to respond to human trafficking and social justice issues through teaching, research and service. The institute also works to educate practitioners to serve on the front lines of efforts to combat human trafficking and assist victims.

In July, the Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute partnered with TARTA to expand Toledo Youth Pages, a prevention tool for at-risk youth in the area. Youth Pages provides resources on issues such as substance abuse and teen pregnancy, with a special focus on the risk factors that make youth vulnerable to human trafficking.

For more information, visit or email

Media Coverage
FOX Toledo (Sept. 11, 2015)
WTOL 11 (Sept. 11, 2015)
The Independent Collegian (Sept. 16, 2015)


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