Local experts choose to support victims in human trafficking case

Local experts choose to support victims in human trafficking case

TOLEDO (WTOL) - It’s a story that’s been developing for more than a year and a half: Three pastors charged with sex trafficking of children.

One has already agreed to a plea deal, while the other two will head to trial soon. Others, their family, have also been arrested and charged in connection to the case.

Celia Williamson with the University of Toledo’s Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute said she’s proud this case is headed to trial.

"I'm not accusing them, I'm not saying that they are guilty,” said Dr. Celia Williamson, director of the human trafficking and social justice institute at the University of Toledo. “The court will say if they are guilty or not guilty, but I'm proud of that fact that we're going to see justice be served."

As for the two women in court Monday, they are accused of tampering with a victim.

Dr. Williamson said from her experience, intimidation is very common in these types of cases. She stands with victims.

“Time is up on that,” said Celia Williamson. “Women are saying that loud and clear all across this country in all kinds of cases. They are being revictimized, retraumatized when they try to come forward and just get basic human rights of being treated like a human being and so we stand with those women.”

While many in our community have been shocked by the case, experts say some of the details are common in cases like this. Dr. Williamson said it’s typical for human trafficking cases to have a network of people working together to help make their “business” thrive. Williamson believes this case proves human trafficking exists here in Toledo and that people are now choosing to speak out about it.

“We need to watch out not only for our children, but for other people’s children as well,” said. Dr. Williamson. “This is one of the safer communities and it’s safe because we’re willing to expose our dirty laundry and talk about it so that we’re able to keep people safe.”

One of the biggest things is awareness. Dr. Williamson believes the only way we improve as a society and bring an end to human trafficking is by educating ourselves and speaking out.

Locally there are several places to start like the Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute, the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition, as well as the national human trafficking hotline 888-373-7888, or Polaris Project, among others.

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