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Sex trafficking of children is focus of state law and government forum at McKinney School of Law



INDIANAPOLIS — Understanding and preventing the sex trafficking of children is the focus of this year’s law and state government symposium at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.

Sex trafficking of children “is a multi-billion-dollar industry where traffickers sell children from our own backyards to people right here in our communities,” said Chelsea Shelburne, a McKinney School of Law third-year student and one of two symposium organizers.

The 2014 Program on Law and State Government Fellowship Symposium, ”In Our Backyard: State Governments Respond to Sex Trafficking of Children,” takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. Friday, Sept. 19, at the law school, 530 W. New York St., on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus.

A panel of prosecutors and law enforcement officers will address intergovernmental collaboration on the criminal prosecutions of sex trafficking and related crimes.  

Experts from across the country will explore different state approaches and policies to address justice and recovery for victims of child sex trafficking.

The conference is the work of Shelburne and fellow McKinney School of Law student Carlos Gonzalez as 2014 fellows in the law school’s Program on Law and State Government, which fosters study, research and legal education on critical legal and regulatory issues facing state governments. Working with the guidance and assistance of the program director, Law and State Government Fellows conduct research and host an academic event addressing a collaboratively chosen fellowship topic.

During the conference Gonzalez will present his research findings on how state governments and local law enforcement units collaborate on identifying child victims of sex trafficking and prosecuting their offenders.

Shelburne will present her research into how state juvenile justice systems could work better to prevent sex trafficking of children and to prosecute adults who support the industry. Her passion for working on children’s issues became focused on sex trafficking during her work with the Indiana Protection for Abused and Trafficked Humans task force as an intern for Judge Marilyn Moores in the Marion County Juvenile Court.

“Sex trafficking of children happens every day all over the country. It’s not what it looks like in the movies, and it doesn’t just follow major events like the Super Bowl,” Shelburne said. “It’s important for people to understand what’s actually happening in our communities. Traffickers prey on vulnerable children and then pull them into the dangerous and abusive world of commercial sex. The systematic physical and sexual abuse is severely traumatizing, so much so that the victim often refuses to identify as a victim of trafficking.”

Symposium presenters also include:

  • Bridgette Carr, director of the Human Trafficking Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School, who will share her experiences as a lawyer testifying before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
  • Holly Austin Smith, a survivor of human trafficking and author of “Walking Prey: How America’s Youth are Vulnerable to Sex Slavery,” who will share her experiences and talk about her fight to change state laws influencing the protection of  youth and the prosecution of the criminals who benefit from the sex trafficking industry

The symposium is open to the public. For registration and additional information, including parking and continuing legal education credit instructions, visit the event web page.