UT Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute host press conference on sex trafficking

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TOLEDO, OH (WNWO) - In light of last Friday's arrests of two local men including one pastor, a press conference was held Wednesday at Reynolds Corner's Branch Library regarding sex trafficking of minors.

The purpose of the conference? To decrease the stigma surrounding sex trafficking victims..

Society often labels victims of sex trafficking of minors as "child prostitutes"

However, The University of Toledo Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute wants the community to know that there is no such thing.

"There's never a time when a teenager should be held accountable for an adult selling them to another adult person," said Celia Williamson. "That should never be the case. So we are telling our community 'do not be confused'."

They urge the members in the community to monitor what they say about anyone who has been victimized by sex trafficking. In fact, they warn mislabeling sex trafficking victims can even prevent the victims from seeking the help that they need.

Lucas County Children Services On-going Case Worker, Deborah Wedding, said, "it's very difficult for them to even disclose that they are victims, because they don't perceive themselves as victims. And then when society refers to them as child-prostitutes then they again see themselves in that light. When truly, they are victims."

Speakers at the conference did remind the public that all accused sex traffickers are innocent until proven guilty. However, they also urged the public to always keep the children's best interest in mind.

Diana Patton, an advocate and speaker at the conference, shared, "as a community, please be aware. Understand what's going on. Protect our children. They need you to advocate for [them]."

As for the two pastors arrested last Friday, Pastor Cordell Jenkins and Anthony Haynes are accused of sex trafficking of a teenager. Court documents detail years worth of sexual encounters. Both men are due in court Thursday morning.

NBC 24 will be there in the courtroom.

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