2016 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Lydia Sharp

Lydia Sharp

Name of Host Organization: Equip for Equality
City, State: Chicago, Illinois
Issue area: Disability Rights
Sponsors: Greenberg Traurig, LLP; Anonymous

The Project

Provide advocacy and outreach to people with disabilities who survived sexual abuse and sex trafficking in Illinois.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
People with disabilities are more likely to be victims of sexual abuse and sex trafficking than people without disabilities. According to the United Nations, they are also less likely to contact the police or to seek legal protection/preventive care. For example, in December of 2014, the Chicago Tribune uncovered extensive sexual abuse in residential facilities serving people with disabilities in Illinois. The Tribune identified a 112-bed facility promising treatment for children who have been sexually abused. In a 2.5 year period, there were 17 cases of alleged sexual abuse and many cases involved multiple attacks. In January of 2015, another facility was closed because the Tribune uncovered that children living there were assaulted and lured into prostitution.
The Right Person For This Project: 
Lydia is the right person for the project because:
• After interviewing women in the commercial sex industry in the Dominican Republic, she chose to become an attorney to advocate for people to be free from sexual exploitation.
• She spent three years researching this project, focusing on the intersection of people with disabilities and human trafficking.
• She has developed a strong network for collaboration in the Chicago legal aid community in support of this project.
Plans For First Six Months of Fellowship: 
In the first six months, Lydia will:
• Establish points of contact for collaborative efforts with the legal and non-legal service providers
• Review and investigate reports of sexual abuse indicated in Illinois Department of Human Services, Office of Inspector General reports.
• Perform one unannounced site visit to a facility serving people with disabilities to talk with individuals in the program and access records to assess safety and quality of care.
• Develop an individual case load based on outreach and site visits.
• Develop written advocacy materials about sexual abuse, sex trafficking, and EFE’s services.
• Distribute advocacy materials to state facilities serving people with disabilities.

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