Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute



htsji projects

Annual International Human Trafficking & Social Justice Conference
With its title being changed to the Annual International Human Trafficking & Social Justice Conference in 2015, the Conference has been taking place since 2004 and has progressed in its mission and outreach, Every year, it brings together researchers, practitioners, and individuals with lived experience in an effort to increase collaborative research, advocacy, and program development. In recent years, the Conference has incorporated a high school aspect, where a day is dedicated to educating students, teachers, and chaperons. To date, the trafficking conference has welcomed presenters from 33 states and 16 countries to educate social service, health care, criminal justice, and other social justice professionals on human trafficking and the needs and risks of victims, customers, and traffickers.  

F.R.E.E. Program
The University of Toledo's Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute’s FREE program provides scholarships and support for survivors of human trafficking. Specifically the program has four phases, (1) Foundation (2) Readiness (3) Education, and (4) Employment.  The acronym is FREE signifying their potential to achieve economic and psychological freedom and empowerment

Human Trafficking is one of the major global challenges of our times and involves victims being sold into the sex trade and the labor trade. Both sex trafficking and labor trafficking damage the lives of many children and adults in our own community and around the world. It is the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world. According to the Global Slavery Index, approximately 40.3 million human trafficking slaves exist in the world today, 403,000 of which are in the U.S. (2018).

Successful interventions with victims of human trafficking involves professionals from the health and social service professions that provide intensive and comprehensive interventions, including help to improve mental and physical health, housing and more for victims to regain stability and control over their lives. Successful completion of services often means that survivors are left in poverty to face their past with few resources to change their economic situation. The University of Toledo's Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute believes in a survivor's capacity to move from survivors to thrivers by achieving a degree or certification, becoming economically empowered and obtain livable employment. If you are interested in participating in the F.R.E.E. Program, please contact or phone 567.218.1467 for more information.

Funding for the The University of Toledo Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute FREE program is provided by the Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC) Foundation Established in 1994.  The ECMC mission is to inspire and to facilitate improvement that affect educational outcomes especially among underserved populations - through evidence based innovation.                                                       

Youth Pages 
Is a resource for teens in Toledo. It is a webpage, app for your phone, and a booklet that provides information on resources in the community that can help teens. There is information about resources related to: general health & sexual health, help lines & counseling, dealing with violence, student rights, drugs & addiction, parenting, & recreation. This project was a collaboration between us, the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition, and the United Way 2-1-1 of Greater Toledo.

Journal of Human Trafficking
Dr. Celia Williamson is Managing Editor of this publication. Subscriptions can be purchased online via the link.

The Community Plan: A Criminal Justice Reform for Toledo 
Community members were asked by the county commissioners to meet and develop those responses that would create a more effective criminal justice approach for individuals and communities in Lucas County, Ohio. Therefore, the community comprised of concerned community members, returning citizens, and relevant professionals have recommended the following adjustments be made and initiatives be implemented to better serve our community at all points within the criminal justice system and before entrance into the criminal justice system. 

Human Trafficking Screening Tool for Mental Health Professionals
This resource was created for those professionals in the behavioral health or mental health fields. It is a protocol guide for screening individuals who may be suspected victims of human trafficking. It has information on indicators, safety & privacy, assessment questions, referrals, & reporting.

PATH - Partners Against Trafficking in Humans
The PATH Project addresses the barriers and gaps in direct service coordination for human trafficking victims. PATH provides a model for victims (as defined by policy or law) to become survivors (defined because they survived, are no longer involved, and are engaged in emotional and psychological healing), and survivors to become thrivers (economic empowerment).

University Collaboration Against Trafficking (UCAT)
Education professionals from universities across Ohio will address the incidence of Human Trafficking through collaboration efforts in teaching, research, and service. Not only will they contribute to the greater knowledge in this collective fight and the circulation of this knowledge, but they will also develop new resources and tools to evaluate effectiveness in prevention and conviction of this crime.

Global Association of Human Trafficking Scholars (GAHTS)
The Global Association of Human Trafficking Scholars (GAHTS) is an international collaboration of scholars around the world coming together to engage in the purpose of combating human trafficking and seeking social justice. Each participant in this collaboration upholds the mission and values it maintains and contributes ideas, plans, and courses of action to pursue them. 

Healthy Start 

In conjunction with community partners, will continue work to reduce Lucas County's high, black infant mortality rate (IMR) be assuring access to culturally competent, family-centered, and comprehensive health and social services to women, infants, and their families through a community-based participatory approach.

The human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute is available to provide human trafficking training in the community. Please contact us at 

additional reports


Past Work

Scholarly Activity

  • Dr. Williamson has conducted 72 scholarly presentations on the topic, delivered 11 Keynote presentations at conferences, edited two books on prostitution and sex trafficking around the world, delivered 87 community based presentations on human trafficking, and has been a panelist on 10 human trafficking focused panels.
  • Dr. Williamson has completed 27 publications on the subject including peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and state level reports.
  • In 2007, Dr. Williamson conducted in-depth qualitative interviews with domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) victims, provided prevalence estimates for the state in 2010, and completed a study of DMST risk factors across five Ohio cities in 2012.
  • Using Dr. Williamson’s 2010 and 2012 study findings as a foundation, both the Ohio Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Task Force and the Ohio Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Commission built recommendations and action steps to address trafficking in the state.
  • Dr. Williamson has been funded by both the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Justice to study prostitution and sex trafficking for a decade (2002 to 2012).
  • Dr. Williamson is a Managing Editor of the first international Journal of Human Trafficking
  • Under the Direction of Dr. Williamson, The University of Toledo hosts the oldest academic Human Trafficking Conference in the nation where researchers, programmers, and activists come to present their work. Each year UT hosts 50 presenters to an audience of 600. Thus far 31 states and 13 countries have been represented. Because of this 10 year conference, Toledo has been able to reach and obtain an extensive knowledge base on the issue. Many programs have been developed across the U.S. as a result of bringing professionals together.
  • Dr. Williamson founded the National Research Consortium on Commercial Sexual Exploitation, which consists of human trafficking scholars across the nation.

Outreach and Engagement

  • In 1993, Dr. Williamson founded the oldest direct service program for sex trafficking victims in the state. This program was in existence well before the passing of the first federal law in 2000 recognizing human trafficking. In 2010, the Second Chance program won a national FBI award for service. The program continues in Toledo with a Director and survivors working with other survivors.
  • Dr. Williamson has appeared over 50 times in various media outlets including print, YouTube, and television. She appeared in USA Today and on Primetime with Cynthia McFadden. A popular episode, the Primetime special called “Kidnapped Cousins” featured domestic sex trafficking here in Toledo. This episode re-aired many times on the ‘E’ Channel.
  • Dr. Williamson has won numerous awards in recognition of her work e.g. Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame; 100 Women of Influence; Human Rights Award from the UN Office; local Phenomenal Woman Award, the Key to the City, and Proclamations from the City and the Governor.
  • Dr. Williamson was one of the founding members of the Ohio Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Commission. Because of her extensive background in human trafficking research, Dr. Williamson was appointed to serve as the Chair of the Research and Analysis Subcommittee of the Commission.
  • Dr. Williamson has also consulted with the Governor’s Human Trafficking Task Force as they develop and work to achieve state recommendations.
  • Representative Fedor is a strong advocate and has introduced all of the anti-human trafficking bills in the state. Dr. Williamson and UT enjoy a strong relationship with Rep. Teresa Fedor, who often consults with Dr. Williamson and her coalition to understand next steps legislatively.
  • Dr. Williamson and UT have a close relationship with Senator Rob Portman and Senator Brown’s office who consult to better understand next steps in federal legislation as well as receiving feedback on current legislation. In February, 2014, Senator Rob Portman came to UT to meet and receive feedback on his latest anti-trafficking related bill involving missing youth who are at risk for human trafficking.
  • In 2009, Dr. Williamson founded the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition. Because of this coalition, Toledo has been able to bring local institutions and agencies together to build a continuum of care for victims and enhance communication. The coalition is strong and active with over 70 representatives participating including juvenile court, Lucas County Children’s Services, Department of Homeland Security, and the FBI. The local coalition also educates 3,000 people per year on human trafficking. Since its inception, we have not had a physical space to house the coalition, or a valid phone number to reach the coalition. It lacks a home base. The Institute will serve as its home base.


  • Dr. Williamson developed and teaches a course on human trafficking each summer. She also takes on interns, volunteers, and facilitates independent studies for students that are interested in learning more about human trafficking.
  • Independent of the UT workload and since coming to UT, Dr. Williamson has taught over 28 interns who have each spent between 16 and 24 hours a week for 9 months learning and volunteering in the area of human trafficking.
Last Updated: 9/12/19