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UT to host International Human Trafficking and Social Justice Conference Sept. 21-22

A University of Toledo professor and advocate fighting against human trafficking will unveil the first comprehensive, evidence-based guide to preventing the sex trafficking of children at the 14th Annual International Human Trafficking and Social Justice Conference.

Survivors, social workers, law enforcement officers, educators, nurses and researchers from across the globe will come together for the two-day conference at The University of Toledo to bring the sex and labor trafficking trades out of the shadows and help end the abuse through education and advocacy.

The conference, which is hosted by UT’s Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute and the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition, is Thursday and Friday, Sept. 21 and 22 in the Student Union on Main Campus.

Dr. Celia Williamson’s pioneering research, which was supported by a grant from the Ohio Department of Higher Education for the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund, provides a multi-tiered system targeting at-risk youth and the adults who interact with them. Her presentation is 9 a.m. Friday, Sept. 22 in the Student Union Auditorium.

“This research project and dozens of others that will be presented at the conference will help communities all around the world end this form of modern slavery and save victims from suffering,” said Williamson, UT professor of social work and director of the Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute.

Since 2004 this annual conference has welcomed presenters from more than three dozen states and 15 countries to lay the groundwork for future collaborative research, advocacy and program development.

Additional speakers include:

  • Lauren Martin, director of research at the University of Minnesota Urban Research Outreach Engagement Center, will share how she is mapping new information about who sex buyers are in Minnesota, where they live and purchase sex, and how they enter the marketplace of this criminal underworld, at 9 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 21 in the Student Union Ingman Room.
  • Jesse Bach, founder of the Cleveland-based nonprofit The Imagine Foundation, will explain how issues such as race, poverty and prison-industry profit turned child gang members into “forgotten” child soldiers in the United States, at 10:15 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 21 in the Student Union Auditorium.
  • Vernon Murray, associate professor of marketing at Marist College, and Dr. Sherry Dingman, associate professor of psychology at Marist College, will present about moral authority and their view that if the United States wishes to encourage anti-trafficking attitudes, it should pass Senate Bill H.R. 40 regarding reparations for the descendants of African slaves, at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 22 in Student Union Room 2591.
  • Amy Smith and Sarah Brenes, program manager and director, respectively, of the anti-human trafficking services and unaccompanied minor services at the Institute of Minnesota, will present opportunities, challenges and issues associated with a large-group agricultural labor trafficking case, such as balancing law enforcement priorities with victim immigration and social service needs, at 10:15 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 21 in Student Union Room 2584.
  • Willie McKether, UT vice president of diversity and inclusion, and Jennifer Pizio, associate director of the UT Office of Diversity and Inclusion, will focus on what makes human trafficking possible in society and culture, at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 21 in the Student Union Ingman Room.

For additional information and a full schedule of presentations, visit

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