This past Sunday, I had the opportunity to photograph The Liberator Awards for 2016 in Ohio.
Ohio is one of the worst states in the U.S. for sex trafficking. It is reported that 1,000 juveniles are forced into the sex trade each year in Ohio, and of these many are only middle-school age. Trafficked children are often already vulnerable. According to a study in the American Journal of Public Health thirty percent of children in homeless shelters and seventy percent of street youth have been victims of the sex trade, They are vulnerable as it is, and they are being exploited by traffickers and buyers of child sex.
But Ohio has been making efforts to fight sex trafficking with stronger legislation and technology developments to fight traffickers and their networks online. State Representative Teresa Fedor, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman have sponsored legislation on both state and federal levels to battle sex trafficking.
The Liberator Awards seek to highlight and acknowledge those who work to abolish modern day slavery in the form of human and sex trafficking. They are sponsored by TraffickFree, an organization that builds awareness about domestic sex trafficking and sexually exploited children in the U.S., and S.O.A.P. (Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution), an outreach to fight sex trafficking at large events and in communities.
The awards are presented to individuals or organizations in the following categories: individual, student or student group, elected official or law enforcement, organization or church or civic club, volunteer, and survivor.
Being able to be a part of this event was an honor, and a humbling experience. As I am currently working on a project on the issue of sex trafficking, it was also a great opportunity to hear stories of victims and those who fight this crime.