Lydia Sharp

  • Hosted by Equip for Equality
  • Sponsored by Anonymous, Greenberg Traurig, LLP
  • Service location Chicago, Illinois
  • Law school Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology
  • Issue area Disability Rights
  • Fellowship class year 2016
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Lydia advocated for people with disabilities who survived sexual abuse or trafficking in Illinois. She also provided outreach and training to service providers and people with disabilities on the intersection of people with disabilities and human trafficking.

People with disabilities are more likely to be victims of sexual abuse and trafficking than people without disabilities. They also face many barriers to justice, which in turn increases their vulnerability. The U.S. Department of State effectively summarized this need in its 2016 Trafficking in Persons report: “Lack of training for police, prosecutors, and judges on how to accommodate persons with disabilities—for example, on providing physical access or sign language interpreters—can leave victims with disabilities unable to report their abuse or effectively participate in the criminal justice process. Lack of accessible information about judicial procedures and rights may also preclude them from approaching law enforcement or courts to report abuse; those who do may encounter social biases against the credibility of their statements and evidence…. Diminished access to the justice system and limited avenues of recourse to address abuse can empower traffickers to target persons with disabilities….”

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Lydia has:

  • Provided brief services or referrals to 114 people with disabilities and provided full representation to over 30 clients
  • Successfully removed a guardian who was trafficking her daughter with Down Syndrome and fully restored the client’s legal rights to make her own life decisions
  • Successfully advocated for a client with PTSD to have her service animal with her in court while she testified against the perpetrator
  • Successfully negotiated a decrease in higher education debt for a client with PTSD who was charged an unlawful fee for a reasonable housing accommodation following a sexual assault
  • Provided 31 outreach trainings to 865 people across the country on human trafficking of people with disabilities
  • Helped to launch the National Human Trafficking & Disability Working Group

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Lydia plans to continue to work at Equip for Equality ensuring people with disabilities are free from abuse and neglect and that their rights are protected. She will also continue to collaborate with the National Disability Rights Network and Protection and Advocacy Systems across the country to inform them about trafficking of people with disabilities

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Kelli Dunn

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