"A Seat at the Table"

November 15, 2019 Celia Williamson Story 
Activist Stories, Women & Girls, Sex Trafficking, Awareness

Human trafficking is the human rights issue of our lifetime and is currently happening in our communities. Celia Williamson grew up with three friends that were trafficked and became an internationally known advocate in the fight against human trafficking.


A Seat at the Table travels deep into the life of an anti-trafficking advocate in Ohio. Her work spans 25 years and began when she decided to go out on the streets herself for six months to learn the culture of street prostitution, the players, the dangers, and the experience of the women. As a result of this experience, she built the first direct service anti-trafficking program in Ohio. The book progresses by telling the story of her experience as advocate with and on behalf of victims, developing programs to support victim recovery, organizing coalitions to support victims, working with politicians to pass state laws, and collaborating internationally to put an end to human trafficking. She saw the lives of women and youth destroyed, young people die before their time, and some others succeed and thrive. She takes the reader through the struggles and the relationships, moving both herself and victims to survivors and then to “thrivers.” More specifically, the book consists of three major components; the first third of the book is focused largely on the advocate’s childhood, her three friends that were eventually trafficked, one of whom was murdered. The second half of the book focuses on her street work and group work with women and her ability to enter spaces and connect with women and youth in ways others were not able to. This this section she shares her experiences, the women’s struggles, and the ways she was able to overcome barriers and create a safe space where the women could build trust, relationships, and begin to heal. The third part of the book is focused on the author’s work to build a thriving anti-trafficking coalition, pass state laws, conduct critical research, and participate in shifting the paradigm regarding how we see these women and youth in our own communities. Throughout the book, Dr. Celia Williamson talks candidly and vividly about the stories of both the women and the children’s lives she’s encountered as well as the outcomes of these lives, tragic or triumphant. She also provides guidelines on how others can and should advocate for society’s most vulnerable. The “Courage to Care” is at the center of her work and her book. Below is a manifesto included in the book and is a poem for all advocates to believe in and share.



we can work to make sure a rescued child can fall asleep every

night without fear of being raped again and forced to work.

We can work to make sure a foreign survivor

feels at home in our country and in the world.

And we can make sure laws are passed that

not only help one, but help the many.



we can work to help a survivor find the

courage to finally testify against her trafficker.

We can work to make sure a twelve-year-old knows that

he is loved and wanted, regardless of how hard he had to work

for little or no pay in the past, or what he has to give you now.

And we can help a woman who was sold to the

highest bidder talk about it for the first time.



we can make sure a teen respects and appreciates

her body, and dreams of what her mind can do.

We can make sure a traumatized and

trafficked woman sees past her demons.

And we can help a man that was beaten

and forced to work feel like a man again.



we can make policy makers change laws, educate the

community so they know what to look for, how to

identify victims, and require systems to respond effectively.



we can make sure a drug-addicted survivor

puts down the needle and deals with her past.

We can make a faith-based community use their

time to put their love and faith into practice.

And we can make a family forever grateful

for the return of their recovered daughter.



we can make forgotten people who live in the shadows

be recognized, receive justice, and reintegrate

them back into their communities.

And we can help a survivor who has been

rescued celebrate a lifetime of freedom.


And we can do this every day.

Because Martin Luther King, Jr. cared, we have civil rights for

all people. Because Caesar Chavez cared, we work to improve the

treatment of migrant workers. Because Harvey Milk, Susan B.

Anthony, Rosa Parks, Gloria Steinem, Audre Lorde, and Ghandi cared…

Because you care, that’s what brought you to this profession.

Those who have the courage to care transform

everything that they touch, and nothing on earth

is higher than that, nothing more sacred,

    for it takes great courage to care

Topics: Activist Stories, Women & Girls, Sex Trafficking, Awareness

About the Author

Celia Williamson

Dr. Celia Williamson has been engaged in anti-human trafficking work for over 25 years. She has published numerous articles on the subject and has delivered over 200 presentations at various conferences and events. She founded the first anti-trafficking program in Ohio in 1993 and directly worked with victims in Toledo for several years. She has completed numerous federally funded studies, written several articles and reports, edited 2 books on sex trafficking around the world, and completed her memoir as an anti-trafficking advocate. Additional accomplishments include: Founding the annual International Human Trafficking and Social Justice Conference; founding the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition; Chairing the Research & Analysis Subcommittee for the Ohio Attorney General's Human Trafficking Commission; and serving as President of the Global Association of Human Trafficking Scholars. In 2015, she became the Director of the Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute at the University of Toledo to further the mission of combating human trafficking through research, education, and engagement. Dr. Williamson teaches social work practice, human trafficking, and culture and oppression courses to university students.