U Toledo professor pushes for prosecution of men who buy sex


TOLEDO, Ohio – Dr. Celia Williamson’s life is dedicated to helping victims of sex trafficking. She says those victims often undergo severe emotional and physical trauma.

“Sometimes you’re raped and you’re beaten or sometimes your trafficker has to punish you and chain you outside on the porch naked all night in the winter because you defied him or broke the rule,” Williamson told 13ABC’s Washington Bureau Chief Jacqueline Policastro.

Williamson is a professor of social work and criminal justice, and she founded several community organizations to help women that are being trafficked. Her University of Toledo office is decorated with diplomas, but also gracious notes of thanks from victims. An angel of hope hangs from the window, even though Williamson said she believes the world is losing the battle against trafficking.

“The three largest illegal enterprises in the world are guns, drugs, and human trafficking,” she said. “Which business do you want to be in? Guns and drugs where we know exactly where to look and how to prosecute it and we arrest the right people? Or do you want to be in human trafficking where you can sell your victim over and over again.”

Williamson spearheaded a 2012 study about domestic sex trafficking in Ohio funded by the Department of Justice and sponsored by the Attorney General’s Ohio Human Trafficking Commission.

The researchers found that people buying sex from women are not always the people society expects them to be.
“The creepy pervert under the bridge doesn’t have money, so who’s purchasing sex? Men,” she said.

Victims who were interviewed for the study identified city employees, police officers, lawyers, social workers, politicians, priests, and accountants as the men buying sex.

“I think it was quite shocking when we looked at that report, that many of the victims reported that the people who were purchasing sex were involved in law enforcement,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “That’s just one study, but every Chief of Police and every sheriff has to look at that, and has to assess what’s going on in their own department.”
DeWine said his office has, in the past, prosecuted the wrong party.

“Historically, we have prosecuted the prostitutes but not prosecuted the men who are buying sex,” he said.
Williamson says the state’s current actions aren’t enough, adding she thinks people who are serious about ending trafficking need to be serious about prosecuting men who buy sex.

“If you end demand, you end trafficking. If you try to bite into supply all the time, there always will be supply and vulnerable people that can be trafficked,” she said.

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