Butler County experts join conversation on human trafficking

Two Butler County officials will join a panel of experts this weekend to discuss human sex trafficking and the impact it’s having throughout the region.

Sex trafficking has gotten the attention of elected officials at the local, state and federal levels. A Senate subcommittee chaired by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, held a hearing and released a report last week that accused a commercial website of editing ads aimed at child sex trafficking to conceal their true content.

Joining a panel that includes Butler County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Kelly Heile and Rick Bucheit, Investigations Division Commander for the Butler County Sheriff’s Office, will be Lisa Williams, who has helped rescue 181 children and young women from human trafficking.

“The most important information I can share is that human trafficking cuts across all lines — gender, culture, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and religion,” Williams said. “As a society we tend to think, ‘This isn’t my problem — it’s not happening in the United States, not in my community.’ But it is our problem. The young girls and boys who are being trafficked are our children.”

Williams, who endured years of emotional, physical and sexual abuse, was abandoned and homeless at age 12. She did what she had to do to survive on the streets and determined very early on that “attitude is everything.”

In 2007, she launched Living Water for Girls, a residential, educational and therapeutic safe refuge for young American girls who have been brutalized by prostitution, human sexual trafficking and exploitation.

Her program has been called “one of the most comprehensive, rehabilitation programs for child victims of sex trafficking in the country,” according to the FBI.

Just this week, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said analysts and agents with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation will scour social media and government data banks to identify teens at risk of being dragged into the underworld of human trafficking and reach them before they fall victim.

MORE: State aims to rescue teens before they fall victim to sex traffickers

A discussion Saturday at the YWCA Hamilton will include Williams, Heile, Bucheit and Bhumika Patel, of the Salvation Army’s Anti-Human Trafficking Program, and Becky Perkins, who is the Communications Director for the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, which is Ohio’s nonprofit statewide sexual assault coalition.

A Sunday event at Bridgewater Church will feature a video presentation on human trafficking and an address from Williams.

Both events are free and open to the public, but registration is required for the Saturday conversation.

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WHAT: Speaking Frankly About Human Sex-Trafficking featuring keynote speaker Lisa Williams

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: YWCA Hamilton, 244 Dayton St., Hamilton

SIGN UP:www.speakingfrankly.community

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WHAT: Speaking Frankly About Human Sex-Trafficking featuring keynote speaker Lisa Williams

WHEN: 6 to 7:30 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Bridgewater Church, 3100 Princeton Road, Hamilton

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