Faces of Trafficking

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Faces of Trafficking: Using art to raise critical consciousness for social justice

The Issue

Human trafficking is a form of “modern day slavery,” in which victims are forced and coerced to engage in commercial sex or labor for the profit and benefit of others. An estimated 40 million people are slaves across the globe today (source: International Labor Organization, 2017), with 17,500 victims trafficked into the U.S. each year. 

These victims have been brutalized, raped and sold. They suffer from chronic trauma related to their abuse. Many have post-traumatic stress disorder and suffer from chronic health conditions; some leave with traumatic brain injury or other disability. Up to 70 percent of our child victims who don’t receive help spiral into adult prostitution, where the probability for violence, drug addiction, poverty and HIV is high. Because of increased awareness through the efforts of The University of Toledo Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute, as well as the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition, our community has diligently called in tips to the FBI Innocence Lost Task Force here in northwest Ohio. This has led to more than 260 rescues of local youth and 100 convictions of traffickers in our community. Awareness works. Awareness translates into freedom.

The Project

A partnership between the Institute and the College of Arts and Letters, Faces of Trafficking will feature portraits of people from the greater Toledo community who are leading the fight to end trafficking; bringing the issue out of darkness. It is an opportunity to bring to life all the different people who this issue impacts, and encourages attendees to join the fight.

We also are honored to feature a special project, A Thousand Hands, A Million Stars, a collaboration uniting visual art, poetry, music and dance produced by UToledo Associate Professor Denise Ritter Bernardini. Additionally, survivor artwork and student response pieces to trafficking stories will be on display.

Faces of Trafficking is a proud partner of The Arts Commission's Momentum Festival, a three day festival celebrating the transformative vibrancy of the arts for our city and region. Momentum supports local artists and musicians and invites international creatives to perform and exhibit in Toledo. 

Faces of Trafficking kicks off Wednesday, Sept. 18, at the beginning of the 16th International Human Trafficking and Social Justice Conference.

The exhibit will be on showcase:

Sept. 19 – Dec. 6

Monday - Friday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. & Saturday - Sunday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. 

The University of Toledo Center for the Visual Arts

620 Art Museum Drive

Toledo, OH 43620


The Fight

The University of Toledo has been at the forefront of human trafficking research and anti-human trafficking activities since 2000 and opened the Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute in 2015. The institute director, Celia Williamson, Ph.D., has fought human trafficking for 25 years, providing direct services to victims for 10 years as well as organizing, advocating for and conducting research. As a recognized leader in the field, Dr. Williamson has been federally funded for 10 years to conduct trafficking and prostitution-focused research, opened the first anti-trafficking program in Ohio, chairs the Global Association of Human Trafficking Scholars and serves as managing editor for the Journal of Human Trafficking.

The University of Toledo is a leader in the fight to end human trafficking through education, prevention and intervention. The University hosts the oldest and largest annual trafficking conference in the U.S., which attracts attendees from more than 42 states and 30 countries. The institute also has a 10-step prevention curriculum for the highest risk, most vulnerable youth to provide guidance and support to prevent victimization. The Partners Against Trafficking in Humans project offers coordinated care and helps victims navigate systems to improve outcomes and identify best practices to build a national model for victim support.

Support the Cause

Last Updated: 6/27/22