Not in My Backyard: A Spotlight on Human Trafficking
Apr 30, 2018
Mary Lou Cole - The Freedom & Justice Foundation
Not in My Backyard: A Spotlight on Human Trafficking

Human Trafficking is often referred to as a crime “hidden in plain sight.” This presentation will explore the crime of human trafficking, its global scope, its prevalence right here in Michigan, and past and present responses by the State of Michigan. It will assist attendees in understanding the risk factors for being trafficked, the signs of a trafficking victim, and the tactics used by traffickers. Attendees will also learn what to do if they suspect that someone is being trafficked and will discover ways to get involved and be part of the solution to end this modern-day slavery.

When Mary Lou discovered that human beings, including children, were being bought, sold, exploited, and enslaved in the black-market industry of human trafficking, something gripped her heart.

With a strong passion for all people to experience true freedom, justice, and human dignity, she founded The Freedom & Justice Foundation. The foundation’s mission is “to help eradicate human trafficking and restore the dignity of survivors.” One of the main initiatives of the foundation is to bring human trafficking awareness to the education system. 

Mary Lou also serves on the Steering Committee for Michigan Abolitionist Project’s Freedom Coalition, an anti-trafficking coalition in southeast Michigan. 

In 2014, she served on Michigan State Senator Judy Emmons’ Citizens Advisory Board for Human Trafficking and participated in several successful human trafficking awareness and advocacy efforts on the state level when significant bi-partisan, victim-centered legislation was being passed in the State of Michigan.

Mary Lou’s direct work with human trafficking survivors has given her personal insight into the depths of the issue and the multitude of challenges faced by those it affects.  Her genuine love and support for survivors is undeniable.

She is an ordained minister and serves as a member of the senior leadership board at Embassy Covenant Church International in Troy, MI.  She led Embassy’s Human Trafficking Task Force for two years which, in affiliation with other local organizations, helped organize several significant community awareness events. 

Mary Lou is a former president of Troy Families for SAFE HOMES, a Michigan non-profit organization whose mission is to “promote substance abuse awareness and prevention in the community.”

She received a Bachelor of Science Degree from Oakland University in Rochester, MI. She and her husband David Cole reside in Troy, MI and have three sons: Nathan, Brian, and Matthew.