LANSING—People from across the state came to Lansing on Wednesday to participate in the second Shine the Light on Human Trafficking Day at the Capitol.
The event, “Phase II – Key to the Future,” was hosted by Sen. Judy Emmons and featured Cook County (IL) Circuit Court Associate Judge Rosemary Grant Higgins and Michigan Human Trafficking Advisory Board Chair Erin Diamond as special guest speakers.
“I was proud to host the ‘Shine the Light on Human Trafficking Day’ as part of an ongoing effort to raise awareness of this global, criminal industry that devastates the lives of thousands of men, women and children every year in Michigan,” said Emmons, R-Sheridan “Our children are especially vulnerable to this heinous crime. Human trafficking is still clouded in shadow, and we need to shine the light on it for everyone to see what is happening.”
Highlights of the day included Judge Higgins discussing human trafficking and providing help to survivors of the sex trade in the court system. Revealing testimony was given by Diamond and others about trafficking during a committee hearing.
“The initiative that Senator Emmons has brought forth is the first step in helping women, who – without the incentives of the court system – would not get the successful transition out of the sex trade,” said Higgins, who presided over the WINGS court (Women in Need of Gender-specific Services) in Cook County. “Our program offered trauma-informed counseling throughout their treatment instead of pointing a finger. In short, asking them ‘What happened to you?’ instead of ‘What did you do?’ It is about breaking the cycle of violence, shining the light on a new path and providing the support for them to get there.”
Diamond was recently appointed to the Michigan Human Trafficking Advisory Board and will serve as chair. He spoke about his role in helping arrest online predators and helping recover victims of child sex trafficking.
“We need to get Child Protective Services on board with us. We only have a limited amount of time with these children, who usually need to be detoxed,” said Diamond, an investigator and electronic forensic examiner with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office. “The education about human trafficking needs to increase across the board, including in law enforcement, the medical community and in the courts.”
Emmons is the Senate point-person on the issue of human trafficking and was successful in getting passed a bipartisan, comprehensive effort to protect Michigan residents from trafficking. The focus now is on raising awareness and making sure Michigan is doing all it can to support survivors and assist law enforcement.
“It was good to see so many concerned citizens show their support during a compelling committee hearing and learn about what they can do to help stop the exploitation of women and children,” said Emmons. “We have done much to help end this modern-day slavery in Michigan, yet there is still so much to do – including improving training for law enforcement to ensure we can bring offenders to justice.”
Editor’s Note: The above photograph and more photos from the event are available by visiting Emmons’ website at www.SenatorJudyEmmons.com. Click on “Photowire” under the Media Center tab.