2018 – Lydia J. Sharp

Lydia J. Sharp, a 2016 cum laude graduate of IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, already is making a remarkable impact in her legal career as an Equal Justice Works Fellow at Equip for Equality. She provides outreach and legal advocacy to people with disabilities who have been sexually abused or trafficked in Illinois and conducts trainings on the intersection of disability and trafficking.

Lydia’s passion for fighting sexual exploitation of vulnerable populations stems from her personal experiences. Lydia is a survivor of sexual assault and knows firsthand the challenges survivors face in standing up to those in power. During a college trip to the Dominican Republic, Lydia also witnessed the sale of a child into sex trafficking. She returned home to co-author a book about poverty and sex trafficking in the Dominican Republic. But Lydia wanted to do more and decided to go to law school so she could fight the injustice facing victims of sexual exploitation. As she began law school, Lydia was diagnosed with cancer and underwent surgeries and treatment throughout the first two years of school. She did not let this challenge stop her from pursuing her dream of fighting against sexual exploitation of vulnerable populations.

At Equip for Equality, Lydia has already worked on life-changing cases against abusive guardians, and universities that refused to cancel debt after the students dropped out of school as a result of sexual assault. She serves as a Steering Committee Member for the National Human Trafficking and Disabilities Working Group, which she helped create, and has trained nearly every Adult Protective Service agency across the state of Illinois. Now that these agencies are better equipped to identify human trafficking, people with disabilities who have been trafficked will have more resources available. Receiving the Anderson Fellowship will provide Lydia with the critical support she needs to maintain her strong commitment to make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities who are victims of sex abuse and trafficking.