Matthew J. Ryan Law and Public Policy Forum Examined Commercial Sexual Exploitation in Pennsylvania October 18

Ryan Forum 2013

The Matthew J. Ryan Law and Public Policy Forum presented a day-long workshop focused on combating the commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) of women and children—human trafficking—in Pennsylvania. This was one of the first times that victim advocates, public defenders, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and academics came together to assess Pennsylvania’s current approach to CSE, to consider what has worked in other states, and to create an action plan for the future.   

The 2013 Ryan Forum was part the statewide collaboration between Pennsylvania law schools and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence to mark the 20th Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act.  Each participating school hosted a symposium on a topic focusing on violence against women to raise awareness and to motivate lawyers across the state to engage in pro bono and low bono work to combat these issues.   

The 2013 Ryan Forum was held on Friday, Oct. 18, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., in Room 101 of Villanova University School of Law (299 North Spring Mill Road, Villanova). This program was approved by the Pennsylvania Continuing Legal Education Board for 4.5 hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE): 3 substantive and 1.5 ethics. 


•Vednita Carter
Vednita Carter, Executive Director, Breaking Free

Click here to view an archived webcast of the symposium.


Panels and Speakers


  • Steve L. Chanenson, Professor of Law, Villanova University School of Law
  • Sen. Daylin Leach, Pennsylvania State Senator for the 17th District
  • Jack Whelan, District Attorney, Delaware County, Pennsylvania 

Kick-Off for PCADV's VAWA 20th Anniversary Celebration

Ellen Kramer, Legal Director of PCADV, will provide an overview of the goals of PCADV's yearlong celebration of the 20th Anniversary of VAWA, and will highlight the unique collaboration that connects Villanova’s event, PCADV and the seven other Pennsylvania law schools. 

Panel 1 - Commercial Sexual Exploitation: An Overview

The panel will provide a general education regarding commercial sexual exploitation (CSE), address myths regarding CSE and emphasize the importance of survivor leadership in organizing against CSE.

  • Mary DeFusco, Director of Training and Recruitment, Defender Association of Philadelphia and Adjunct Professor of Trial Advocacy, Villanova University School of Law
  • Hugh Organ, Associate Director, Covenant House Pennsylvania and Co-Chair of the Philadelphia Anti-Trafficking Coalition
  • Anne Marie Jones, First “Graduate” of Philadelphia’s “Project Dawn Court”
  • Sophia Lane, Youth Outreach Coordinator, Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS)
  • Rhea Gayle, Educator, Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS)

Panel 2 - Building an Effective State-Wide Anti-Trafficking Movement: Best Practices from Outside of Pennsylvania

The panel will identify successful strategies for addressing commercial sexual exploitation that have been implemented throughout the United States.

  • Vednita Carter, Executive Director, Breaking Free, St. Paul, MN
  • Lauren Hersh, Director of New York Office, Equality Now, New York, NY
  • Lynne Johnson, Policy and Advocacy Director, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE), Chicago, IL 
  • Britanny Vanderhoof, Policy Counsel, Polaris Project, Washington, DC

Panel 3 - The Pennsylvania Anti-Trafficking Movement: Successes and Roadblocks

The panel will discuss the various efforts that have been made within Pennsylvania to combat commercial sexual exploitation/trafficking, identify the successes experienced, as well as the challenges faced.

  • Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, Pennsylvania State Senator, 12th District
  • Kim Pearl, Assistant District Attorney, Delaware County
  • Michelle Morgan, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • Shea Rhodes, Advocate and Former Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia County, currently with Graff & Associates
  • Mary Burke, Southwestern Pennsylvania Anti-Trafficking Coalition

Identifying Next Steps in the PA Anti-Trafficking Movement

  • Viktoria Kristiansson, Attorney Advisor, AEquitas: The Prosecutor's Resource on Violence Against Women, Moderator and Presenter
  • Seth Lupton, Villanova Law Student, Class of 2015 and President of the Coalition Advocating for Rights and Dignity (CARD)
  • Bridget G. Therriault, former student in Villanova University's cross-disciplinary Human Trafficking course

Closing Remarks

  • Michelle M. Dempsey, Associate Dean for Faculty Reseach and Development  and Professor of Law, Villanova University School of Law
  • Doris DelTosto Brogan, Professor of Law, Villanova University School of Law

The Villanova University School of Law Matthew J. Ryan Law and Public Policy Forum honors the memory of one of the Law School’s most distinguished alumni, The Honorable Matthew J. Ryan, B.S. ’54., J.D. ’59, the former Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. The Ryan Forum was made possible by the generosity of his many friends and the leadership of Arthur J. Kania, J.D. ’56; Albert A. Lindner, J.D. ’68; James E. McErlane, B.A. ’64, J.D. ’67; and Richard G. Phillips, B.S. ’62, J.D. ’66.