A Road Back from Walking the Streets
Peg Talburtt compares the way society has responded to sex trafficking to the way it once ignored domestic violence. "Women were primarily the victims," says Talburtt, the chief executive of the Lovelight Foundation, an Ann Arbor-based women's charity founded by Detroit philanthropists Peter Cummings and Julie Fisher Cummings. "Police were not your friends. If they were called, they might just come by and ask what the disturbance was about and tell people to just settle down. Men, the abusers, were not put in jail."
Now, nearly twenty years after Linguidi was first sold, Talburtt says the issue of human sex trafficking has begun to reach a tipping point in public awareness. In January, the Women's Court of Washtenaw County officially opened for business.
The court is funded by a grant of $58,800 from the State of Michigan's Court Performance Innovation Fund. Judge Charles Pope of Ypsilanti's 14B District Court spearheaded the county's grant application with the U-M Human Trafficking Clinic, and Pope is the new court's judge. "Most of the [county's prostitution] cases are from a particular corridor that runs through Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township," explains Elizabeth Hines, chief judge of the Fifteenth District Court. "It made all the sense that we would transfer any cases from here to Judge Pope."
Prostitution charges countywide are now automatically referred to Pope. Each woman is assigned a court-provided case manager, and Pope will have the option to provide a variety of rehabilitation services to those determined to be trafficking victims.