Inaugural Union County Human Trafficking Symposium scheduled for next week

The inaugural Union County Human Trafficking Symposium has been scheduled for 1-3:30 p.m. on Friday, October 12, and members of the public and professionals whose work touches on the topic are being invited and encouraged to attend, acting Union County Prosecutor Michael A. Monahan and Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders Chairman Sergio Granados jointly announced Friday.

The Symposium, which will take place at Union County College’s main auditorium in Cranford, is being jointly coordinated by the Prosecutor’s Office, its Union County Office of Victim/Witness Advocacy, and the Union County Department of Human Services’ Office on Women, with support from Union County College and the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

Human trafficking is defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as “modern-day slavery” that involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. Every year, the Department reports, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked in countries around the world, including the United States, and it is estimated that human trafficking generates billions of dollars of profit annually, ranking it second only to drug trafficking as the most profitable form of transnational crime.

In New Jersey, the state anti-human trafficking law passed in 2005 classifies the act as a first-degree crime, the most serious under state law, punishable by 10 to 20 years in state prison.

The keynote speaker for next Friday’s Symposium is Cranford resident Lockey Maisonneuve, author of “A Girl Raised by Wolves,” a memoir about her experience being sold into sex slavery by her father as an adolescent. Her remarks will be followed by a panel discussion moderated by Union County Victim/Witness Coordinator Maria Reynolds and also involving, among others, Prosecutor’s Office Assistant Prosecutor Michael Sheets and Sgt. Brian O’Malley, both of whom have been directly involved in investigating and prosecuting numerous defendants in several separate cases of human trafficking in Union County during recent years.

“Slavery was abolished over 150 years ago in our country, yet it is still alive and well today in the form of human trafficking,” Sheets said. “It lives and works everywhere we live and work, and it hides in plain sight. It’s a true evil that we cannot morally afford to tolerate any longer. The first and most important step in destroying it, is recognizing it. Education is the key.”

“The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, through the Department of Human Services’ Office on Women, is proud to co-sponsor this Human Trafficking Symposium,” Freeholder Chairman Granados said. “Human Trafficking is often unrecognizable, and by educating ourselves about the indicators, we can more effectively identify and report this crime, helping to eliminate it.”

“Many victims in our community suffer in silence. They live in fear, shame, and isolation. Survivors of human trafficking are faced with tremendous obstacles,” Reynolds added. “What we can help them with today, with this event, is to diminish the shame and taboo, and increase awareness. Learning how we can help as a community marks an important step toward combating this issue in Union County.”

To register to attend the Symposium online, use the following link:

For more information about the Symposium, contact Prosecutor’s Office Director of Communications Mark Spivey at or 908-527-4621.