GUEST BLOG: Traffick Free: Combating Human Trafficking
Traffick Free evolved from the concern of a few individuals who met through a monthly social justice meeting at Park Community Church.
We think sex trafficking is so far away, so distant from our homes and our families. We see it as an issue faced only by people in foreign countries. We see it as women who chose to participate in street prostitution. But the extent and coercion of human trafficking is so expansive that there are more people being exploited now than ever before in history.
Sex trafficking is a $9.5 billion industry in the United States with between 14,000 and 17,000 people being trafficked into the country each year. The sex trade happens at truck stops, restaurants, massage parlors, homes, and online. Traffickers force people into commercial sex at an average age of 12-14. These are often homeless or runaway children who are manipulated into a relationship with the trafficker. Other children are forced into survival sex out of desperation for basic needs and are then threatened into ownership by a trafficker. Chicago is a national hubspot for trafficking. The Cook County State Attorney’s Office ties this to the presence of a large international airport and to Chicago being a large convention city. In the City of Chicago alone there are an estimated 24,000 women and girls being sex trafficked. This overwhelming number fueled the construction of Traffick Free – an organization dedicated to social activism to help women and girls involved in commercial sex in Chicago.
For the next few years we hosted events like the Run Against Traffick 5k. We have worked with the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, the United States Marines, and the Illinois Department of Labor. We have also partnered with the Young Women’s Christian Association to train volunteers in human trafficking as part of their 40-hour sexual assault curriculum. While building awareness we also worked behind the scenes to find ways to help survivors.
Through our experiences and conversations to learn about what was going on in Chicago we quickly realized that there was a desperate need for emergency services. An emergency shelter is a place to access safety and ask for help without a long term commitment. Several other organizations were already providing long term shelter or building awareness but no one in Chicago was offering a place for women and girls to transition out of commercial sex.
Our friends at Traffick Free are doing amazing work in Chicago. Trafficking is not limited to large cities. In many cases, traffickers prefer small towns because of a there is no way that would ever happen here thinking. Human trafficking is not a developing nation problem, or a women’s issue, or a big city problem. . . it is everywhere and it is a human problem.
Human trafficking will continue as long as we turn our heads. Perhaps you are feeling the nudge to take action. Let us know, so that we can support your work. Where to start? Educate yourself. Donate to groups doing this amazing work. Look at the work of the 30th Judicial Alliance in our home area. Answer the nudge–you may have the true solution.
The Basics (from our friends at Traffick Free)
Click Here to visit Traffick Free
Definitions When people think about slavery, they usually think of the traditional chattel slavery that was seen in America’s past. That form does still exist in certain countries, but slavery has evolved, and now most often occurs in these forms:
BONDED LABOR: People become bonded laborers by taking or being tricked into taking a loan for as little as the cost of medicine for a sick child. To repay the debt, many are forced to work long hours, often all year long. They receive basic food and shelter as “payment” for their work, but many may never pay off the loan, which can be passed down for generations.
FORCED LABOR: People are illegally recruited by individuals, governments or political parties and forced to work, usually under the threat of violence or other penalties.
TRAFFICKING: The transport and/or trade of women, children and men from one area to another for the purpose of forcing them into conditions of slavery. Human trafficking ranks as the second largest criminal industry globally, second only to drug smuggling, and equal with illegal weapons transactions.
- there are more slaves now than ever before in human history – approximately 27 million around the world
- the cost of a slave has decreased from $40,000 in 1850, to $90 in 2008
- it would cost $40 per family to buy all bonded laborers in the world – Americans spend this much on chocolate each Valentine’s Day
- 17,500 slaves are brought into the United States every year
- slave labor is used to produce much of the goods that we buy, and it is currently very difficult to determine if that is the case
- in 2003, The New York Times labeled Chicagoland as a national hub for trafficking – most victims are from Latin America and Asia
- exual exploitation of minors is lawfully considered human trafficking approximately 325,000 children in the United States are subjected to sexual exploitation every year
- the average age of entry into the commercial sex industry within the United States is 11-12 years old
- Data and statistics on human trafficking are very limited, because the crime is largely invisible – most of these values likely underestimate actual figures. While the issue of modern slavery is global in scale, many experts believe that it can be brought to an end in 25 years – if we are able to sustain our attention on the issue.
sources: freetheslaves.net, reuters, newyorktimes.com, usdoj.gov