Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Man in Chicago Charged with Trafficking: Why the Problem is Local and Real

A hot topic in today’s news, a Chicago man is being charged with counts of human trafficking after forcing his girlfriend into prostitution. According to CBS Chicago News, authorities say the man beat his girlfriend until she agreed to prostitute herself for his monetary gain.

In light of this reported human trafficking case, the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE) is urging awareness regarding the local prevalence of sex trafficking in our very own community.

Lynne Johnson, CAASE’s advocacy director gives us the facts,

“As many as 25,000 women and children are purchased for sex in Chicago every year. Many were forced into the sex trade by someone they knew and trusted, frequently when they were just children. We applaud the “We applaud the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Cook County Sheriff’s Office for their newly increased commitment to prosecuting pimps and traffickers aggressively and effectively,” she said.

CAASE is the lead agency for the End Demand Illinois campaign, which fights the demand for prostitution in Chicago.

There are many myths and misconceptions about human trafficking: CAASE offers these facts to help the public better understand the issue and fight trafficking in our community:

*According to the federal definition, ‘Sex Trafficking’ involves recruiting and maintaining another into or in prostitution.
“Aggravated Trafficking”- when force, fraud or coercion is used to get or keep people in prostitution—these are serious federal crimes.

*Contrary to conventional wisdom, trafficking offenses do not usually require the crossing of jurisdictional boundaries.

*Cook County’s new approach to targeting pimps and traffickers is innovative and necessary to ending the problem of sex trafficking: Historically 2/3 of all prostitution-related arrests in Chicago have been of women.

*Research reveals that the average age of entry into prostitution for women living in Chicago is16.

*The word “trafficking” is about exploitation: It does NOT require the movement or transportation of the person. Instead trafficking is defined at the Federal level as the use of force, fraud, or coercion against a victim.

*Research indicates that most victims of sex trafficking within the United States are women and children, particularly girls under the age of 18.

*A number of studies in the United States indicate that many women and girls in prostitution are also victims of sex trafficking. For example:

* 79% of women in prostitution in one study gave an indication that they were in prostitution due to some degree of force.

*In another study, 50% of the women and girls interviewed reported being kidnapped by pimps; 76% of those were beaten by pimps; and 79% were beaten by customers.

The demand for commercial sex is enormous, whether on the street, in strip clubs, escort services, or massage parlors. The willingness of some men to pay for sexual ‘services’ fuels a multi-billion dollar global sex industry, without which there would be no trafficking.

To learn more, visit http://www.caase.org/

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What Did You Think of "Saved on the Strip"?

I watched Hookers, Saved on the Strip on Discovery Channel last night. It’s a new reality TV show about Annie Lobert, a survivor of prostitution (above). I wanted to weigh in about my reaction to the show and hear what you all have to say about it.

First of all, I want to acknowledge that the show perpetuates a lot of stereotypes about women in prostitution. It’s set in Las Vegas, and the B-roll used to tell Annie’s story includes many shots of women wearing fishnet stockings and looking generally happy and glamorous. This made me cringe—the vast majority of women in prostitution in the U.S. are having sex to survive, and they certainly aren’t wearing six-inch heels. Real women in prostitution live in our own community—from Naperville to Elmhurst to Chicago—not just in “sin city.”

However, I think the show tackles a lot of issues that women right here in Chicago are facing as they try to exit prostitution. She touches on issues pertaining to violence, pimps, the legal system and more. I think it’s very brave of Annie and the other survivors on the show to tell their stories. They’re educating the public about the harms of prostitution and trying to help other women. Here are a couple things that stood out to me as being as being informative and pertinent to Chicago:

From what I could tell, Annie was a minor when she was recruited into prostitution. She was lured into it by someone she knew. This is really, really sad and also a very common experience for women in prostitution. Until recently in Illinois, girls could be charged with prostitution even though they were minors, and adults were paying to have sex with them. Our End Demand Illinois campaign advocated for a law that ends this practice: The Illinois Safe Children Act is changing the way law enforcement in our state treat survivors of domestic sex trafficking. Instead of being treated like criminals, youth survivors of prostitution are seen as being worthy of service and treatment.

Annie is also showing how the arrest and re-arrest of women in prostitution makes it incredibly difficult for women to leave the sex trade. This practice ignores the cause of this problem—the people who are buying sex and creating a demand for prostitution. Regina, a survivor on the show, was working to have her criminal record sealed so that she could apply for a job outside of the sex trade. She found this process incredibly difficult and wondered aloud if returning to stripping wouldn’t just be easier on her. This was a really sad moment in the show. Our culture’s stigmatization and legal treatment of women in prostitution is so harmful and cyclical. The End Demand Illinois campaign seeks to stop this cycle by shifting law enforcement’s attention to the cause of the problem—the men who are buying sex—and to stop the arrest and re-arrest of women.

To learn more about how to end the demand for prostitution, visit CAASE's resource page.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sex Trafficking Revealed in Little Village

Many Americans believe that sex trafficking happens primarily in other countries, but human trafficking is a problem right here at home in Chicago. Just this week, a woman was arrested for trafficking young girls in a brothel in the Little Village/Pilsen neighborhood. The Chicago Tribune reports here:

Rubicela Montero forced the underage girls and other victims into prostitution and threatened them or their families with death if they quit, authorities said.

We are thrilled to see that our advocacy efforts are creating change. The Cook County State's Attorney's Office and the Chicago Police Department uncovered these victims of human trafficking. They treated the girls who were being exploited as worthy of support, not arrest - and to direct resources toward the investigation, charging, and prosecution of those who profit from commercial sexual exploitation. This is a major shift in the way survivors of sex trafficking are treated.

How can you get involved?

Learn more about the issue. Visit our resources page to read more about human trafficking.

Share with your friends.
Send the link to this story to five of your friends to raise awareness about the issues in Chicago.

Join the End Demand Illinois campaign
. Help us hold people accountable when they buy sex and contribute to sex trafficking in our community : www.enddemandillinois.org

A few more facts about sex trafficking:
  • Research indicates that most victims of sex trafficking within the United States are women and children, particularly girls under the age of 18
  • It is just as likely that a trafficking victim could come from your own neighborhood and be a local teenage girl.

  • Sadly, Americans tend to refer to U.S. trafficking victims as anything but victims. They are referred to as criminals, prostitutes, child prostitutes, runaways, addicts, or juvenile delinquents. Traffickers are often referred to only as pimps
Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Looking Beyond the Story of Madame Rose

Rose Laws, a "madam" who prostituted women on the Gold Coast and was then imprisoned, is profiled by ABC7 this week about her "business" selling women's bodies to wealthy men in our community. In the interview, she reveals many disturbing facts about prostitution in Chicago and names some names. Most importantly, her story subtly reveals the rampant violence and indignity experienced by women in prostitution:

  • Laws says that professional football players hurt some of her "girls" by holding their heads under water in a hot tub. Violence is rampant in prostitution-the average life expectancy for a woman in prostitution is seven years after she enters the trade.

  • She also describes sending her "youngest girls" to service men--the connection between child sex trafficking and "high-end" prostitution is strong and clear. As long as there is a demand for young bodies, children will be trafficked. We must ask why we would implicitly allow men in our community to buy children for sex.

  • Laws estimates her women sold their bodies to as many as 5,000 men in Chicago. There is indeed a huge demand for prostitution in Chicagoland, and it feeds on more than 25,000 women and children who are prostituted in our city on any given day. There are very few consequences for men who are caught buying sex, while women in prostitution are often arrested and re-arrested.
I am genuinely interested in the reasons why Laws entered the sex trade. For the majority of women who do, it is out of desperation, not choice.

What can you do to help women in Chicago who would like to leave the sex trade? Join the End Demand Illinois campaign to fight the demand for the sex trade in Chicago. Respond to the media using our toolkit with common myths and misconceptions, and hold the media responsible when they get it wrong or only tell one side of the story.

Visit www.enddemandillinois.org to learn more.

Security Screenings and Survivors of Sexual Harm

There’s lots of chatter today about TSA security screenings and pat-downs at the airports on this busy travel day. Our legal director, Kaethe Morris Hoffer, was on WBEZ this morning talking about how the issue affects survivors of sexual harm. She states that the screenings could be traumatic to survivors. Listen to what she had to say, and leave a comment!

Kaethe and CAASE offer low- or no-cost legal representation to survivors of sexual harm. To learn more about our efforts, visit http://www.caase.org/work_legal.aspx.

Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

National Day of Action!

Tomorrow, November 17, is the National Day of Action to urge Congress to pass the Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking and Victims Support Act. This legislation provides victims of human trafficking with access to needed services and shelter. This day of action is organized by the National Coalition to End Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking, and one of the organizations in the coalition, Polaris Project, is a partner with CAASE in our End Demand Illinois advocacy campaign, which seeks to transform Illinois' response to prostitution and sex trafficking.

To make sure this crucial legislation passes, please commit to take action!

Visit Polaris Project to learn more about how you can help to fight human trafficking.

Photo by Mike Bitzenhofer

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Child Sex Trafficking in Chicago

The news yesterday about FBI raids that arrested hundreds across the country in child sex trafficking stings was very disturbing. Three children were rescued in Chicago alone. Sadly, the news that children are victimized in the sex trade in the United States is not a revelation, it’s reality.

If you get a chance today, buy an issue of StreetWise. It includes the story of Jessica (not her real name), who was kidnapped in Chicago and prostituted in the suburbs for three years. She was held against her will, clearly a victim of trafficking right here in our own back yard.

And until recently in Illinois, children who were arrested for prostitution could be charged criminally. Our End Demand, Illinois campaign helped to stop this practice in Illinois by advocating for the passage of the Safe Children Act, which took effect in August of this year.

The sex trade is fueled by the most vulnerable in our society, and children are often victims. Here are some startling facts from research CAASE has compiled into fact sheets:

  • A University of Pennsylvania study from 2001 estimates that close to 300,000 children nationwide are at risk of falling victim to some sort of sexual exploitation. Outreach workers concur, saying that of the 1 million to 1.5 million runaway children in the country, about a third have some brush with prostitution.
  • The overwhelming majority of runaway, homeless, abused, and at-risk children are approached by pimps and drug dealers within 48 hours of landing on the streets.
  • Sixty percent of children exploited in prostitution are first recruited by peers.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice states that the average age of entry into prostitution is 12-14 years old.

We should all be disgusted, but what can we do next? You can raise awareness and take action. Until the demand for prostitution ends, there will always be people willing to supply children for the sex trade. Visit www.enddemandillinois.org and get involved with the local campaign . Read our guide to concrete ways you can help fight the sex trade here.

Photo by Manuel Faisco.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Rachel Durchslag featured on What's Your Calling?

Rachel has been featured in the PBS mini series What's Your Calling?. She discusses how she became interested in sex trafficking and exploitation and what inspired her to advocate against it.
Check it out at the link below!

And as always, to find out more about how to end sex trafficking and exploitation visit: caase.org

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Celebs Join Somaly Mam to end Child Sex Slavery

Last week activists and philanthropists gathered in New York City to support the Somaly Mam Foundation, a nonprofit organization co-founded by trafficking survivor Somaly Mam, that supports programs worldwide to end sex trafficking. Also in attendance was Phil Kowalcyzk, President of The Body Shop North America,a company that has worked with Somaly Mam for two years and has recently launched a petition to Stop Sex Trafficking of Children & Young People, which has gathered 3.5 million signatures.

The article touched upon a point made by the event's honoree, CEO of LexisNexus Group, Andy Prozes, that the driving force behind sex trafficking is demand,and CAASE has been working to end the demand for sex trafficking and prostitution through the End Demand Illinois campaign, a multi-year organizing effort to transform Illinois's response to prostitution and sex trafficking.

Click here for the rest of the article!

Also check out this video of trafficking survivors sharing their stories

Friday, October 29, 2010

Who Made Halloween About Sex?

Rachel Durchslag, our executive director, is quoted in RedEye about the trend of increasingly “sexy” Halloween costumes, and I thought maybe we could chat about it over here too. Alysse, the RedEye reporter, interviewed Chicagoans about which type of costume was better, sexy or scary. We appreciate our perspective being included in the story—here’s a longer quote from Rachel on the subject:

“As our society is getting more and more hyper-sexualized, people are going over the top on Halloween to out-do the pace. It’s still really taboo to talk about sex in our culture, and yet we’re bombarded with sexual imagery.

I see this trend as our culture’s failure to create authentic ways to celebrate sexuality. Who gets to define what’s sexy and sexual? We’re letting costume companies make money off of defining our sexual desires.

Men, on their own, probably wouldn’t say that they fantasize about a woman in a skimpy firefighter outfit. And yet now that it’s accepted, women feel they need to live up to these standards.

We should think about the role we’re letting corporations play in shaping our identities. It’s frightening.”

What do you think? Is Halloween about sex because we want it to be, or because someone else tells us it should be? And, on a lighter note, what’s your costume going to be this year? Rachel was Waldo :)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sex Slavery in our Backyard

When reading the story regarding the woman who was made into a sex slave in Kansas City, I was truly mortified. This woman apparently became a victim at the age of 16, when she ran from her adoptive parents. The couple charged with sex trafficking both stated that the victim asked if she could live with them, after escaping her adoptive parents. Unfortunately, many victims of prostitution and human trafficking are often runaways. They try to lead healthier lives by running away from abuse and then become re-victimized by pimps, traffickers, or in this case, a couple the victim thought she could trust.

To me, the most upsetting part of this story is that the victim is blamed. In the article, people who have encountered the victim have stated that she enjoyed what she was doing, which includes stripping, pornography, and being tortured during sex. In research performed by CAASE, men have admitted to buying prostituted women because they are too embarrassed to ask their partners to perform specific acts. In this case, men were soliciting this woman online and in person in order to perform BDSM. This article also stated that the woman was “mentally deficient” – therefore no consent (if consent was even given) is consensual.

A coworker of this woman stated that she looked “happy and spoiled.” Being tortured by methods of electric shock and waterboarding does not seem like a happy and spoiled life to me. A life full of physical and sexual abuse does not seem like a happy and spoiled life either, actually it sounds terrifying.

Want to get involved and help combat sex trafficking? Would you like to become a voice for millions of women and children who are victimized each year by this crime? Find out more information at www.caase.org

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sarah Jessica Parker and Gabourey Sidibe Join Fight Against Sex Trafficking

Actresses Sarah Jessica Parker and Gabourey Sidibe join the fight against sex trafficking in Brooklyn by recording public service announcements to raise awareness of sex trafficking and Brooklyn's new hotline for victims. The PSAs highlight the fact that young adolescents are trafficked and encourages use of the hotline for helping end sex trafficking.

CAASE has been a leading organization in the fight against child sex-trafficking, and was instrumental in helping to get the Illinois Safe Children Act passed, which protects victims under the age of 18 of sex trafficking and forced prostitution from being prosecuted for prostitution. To learn more about the advocacy work that CAASE engages in, visit End Demand Illinois

Listen to the PSAs here!

Monday, October 18, 2010

How Jessica Brought Down a Sex Trafficking Ring

Too often, stories about prostitution are missing something important. They detail the lives of women in the sex trade, but make little mention of the pimps and johns who drive the demand for prostitution. This article from The Boston Globe gets a lot of things right, and it’s worth a read. It profiles Jessica, a young woman who helps to bring down a child sex trafficking ring in Boston. The author also details the control and coercion of pimps, who are rarely the ones punished. Jessica said this about her pimp:

“I had nowhere to go,’’ she said. “He told me that this was it, that it was me and him and if I left that, this was going to haunt me for the rest of my life. He would find me.’’

Read the whole story here. What’s your reaction?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Speak Out Against the Mobile App for Pimps

A mobile phone app has been created called PinPointsX that enables users to "locate and interact with erotic partners and facilitators.” In essence, this means that users will be able to check out adult advertisements presented on a GPS map. What this means for sex trafficking is that pimps will be able to sell women and children with zero traceability, as blogger Amanda Kloer describes on change.org:

“With PinPointX, pimps can advertise and sell girls with absolutely no barriers or traceability. They don't have to risk using an IP address to post on a static website, they can continuously move their "product" around while simultaneously advertising them, and, unsurprisingly, the PinPointsX company has put exactly zero safeguards in place to prevent the use of their product for exploitation.”

We must not let this happen. PinPointsX has even been directly marketing the app to johns who formerly bought sex on Craigslist until the adult services section was removed.

In the past, Apple has removed numerous apps that contain sexually explicit material (ie. pornographic images and videos). The app appears to be awaiting approval by Apple while Android has already adopted this app for U.S. customers. The question of the day is will all phone carriers block an app that will encourage and facilitate the sex trafficking of women and children?

We encourage everyone to speak out against this application, as it enables perpetrators of sex- trafficking and exploitation everywhere to hurt women and children.

Sign the petition to stop this app over at Change.org.
To help end the demand for prostitution in Illinois, visit www.enddemandillinois.org.

-This post written by Genevieve Shannon, an intern with CAASE.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Meet Serena Curry: Student Activist, Intern and Volunteer Extraordinaire

The epitome of student activist, Serena Curry balances an overflowing course load, multiple student leadership positions and an internship at the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation. A self-described feminist who is wrapping up her senior year at Loyola University Chicago, Serena’s work as an activist is really just beginning.

Serena first learned about human trafficking when an attorney visited her high school class. She immediately began doing research and writing papers about the issue. "I'm a total maniac who doesn't stop talking and educating people,” Serena said. “I'm passionate about it, and I'm interested in pursuing this type of work for my career.”

At Loyola she has gravitated toward people and causes that aligned with her beliefs: She co-founded Loyola's chapter of Free the Slaves and became a member of Women in Leadership. Her junior year, Serena sought out an internship at the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation. She was drawn to CAASE's mission to end sexual harm and hold perpetrators accountable. "CAASE is dedicated to issues that are so prevalent in our society, but not enough people are paying attention," she said.

Serena worked with CAASE's advocacy director, Lynne Johnson, to bring resources to rape crisis centers in Cook County. First, she mapped out rape crisis services by district. She then worked with Lynne to lobby the county commissioners to allocate more funding to centers that needed it. As she sat in meetings and observed, Serena soaked up all she could. "It was a really cool experience," she said.

Their advocacy efforts paid off, with $275,000 being allocated to the rape crisis centers. Now Serena's following up by interviewing staff members and survivors to find out how the funding has helped. The experience of interviewing survivors of sexual assault in these crisis centers made big impression on Serena. "Women have told me that without these services, their lives would be very different,” Serena said. "It's cool because that funding is something I worked on for a long time, and now these women are getting what they need."

Serena is also very interested in the End Demand Illinois campaign. “We're pioneering a movement to end the demand for prostitution," she said. "We're the only organization of our kind doing this work. It's incredible because we have made Illinois a model for the rest of the country for how women and children should be treated.”

When Serena's classmates and friends ask her about her work to fight sex trafficking, she has stats ready to share. "I usually talk about the number of people who are involved. There are as many as 25,000 people involved in prostitution in Chicago alone. I explain that this is something happening down the street."

Serena is well-versed in the issues surrounding victims of prostitution, and she’s very persuasive. “Just like we work to raise awareness for survivors of rape, we need to raise awareness about survivors of prostitution," she said.

Last year at Loyola, Serena worked with Women in Leadership at Loyola to put together a panel discussion about sex trafficking. She also worked with the Bandana Project, which raises awareness about sexual assault among migrant farm workers. "Women working in the fields cover their faces so they'll be less susceptible to sexual assault," she said. She rallied a group to decorate bandanas and display them to raise awareness, and the project will continue this Spring.

Serena will graduate in December, and she's looking for internships, fellowships and other positions so she can continue to work on the issues of sex trafficking and modern day slavery. Her dream is to do a year of service, then to get her master's degree in social work so she can ear more about working in the nonprofit sector. "I'm trying to be as involved in the movement as I can," she said.

To learn more about interning with CAASE, visit www.caase.org.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

TimeOut Chicago Story: A Rape Survivor's Journey with CAASE

There’s a powerful article in TimeOut Chicago today about a young woman who sought CAASE’s help after a man raped her. Our Legal Director Kaethe Morris Hoffer helped rape survivor Suzanne Alton navigate the court system and file a civil no contact order, which forced the man who attacked her to stand trial. We won the case. Read the story here.

We are extremely proud of Kaethe and want to say thank you to all of you who make CAASE’s work possible. Thanks to reporter Claire Bushey for covering this important topic. Thanks also to Suzanne for the tremendous bravery it took to share her story, which will help so many others. Kaethe is working with survivors of sexual assault every single day at CAASE and your support is making that possible. If you’d like to donate to CAASE to support our work, please click here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Prostitution in the News: Suburban Law Enforcement Focusing on Demand

We’ve noticed a few articles in the past week about prostitution stings happening in the Chicago suburbs. There are a few things that the staff here at CAASE looks for when we see these types of articles. Are johns, pimps and sex traffickers being held accountable? Were children involved? How does the reporter portray the people being prostituted? Here are some initial thoughts and a few stats from our study Deconstructing the Demand for Prostitution. What are your reactions to these stories?

Sept. 10, 2010: Daily Herald | Nine arrested in Aurora prostitution sting: We think it’s very important and a victory that local law enforcement in Aurora are going after the men who are trying to buy sex acts. The sex trade is a crime that is happening locally, here in Chicagoland, and it is harmful to our communities and to women: 27% of the men CAASE interviewed acknowledged that they had committed sexually coercive acts against women.

Sept. 25, 2010: 4 arrested in prostitution investigation near Willowbrook:
This story reveals that people are being trafficked into our area for prostitution. The woman arrested is “from” Seattle—we wonder who brought her to Chicago and if that person is being punished. Of the men CAASE interviewed, 20% said they had purchased sex from women who were trafficked from other countries.

Sept. 27, 2010: Police nab eight in prostitution sting: (Elmhurst) This story lists the names and addresses of the men who were arrested for attempting to buy sex. In our study, 87% of men said that having their photo or name in the local paper would deter them from buying sex.

Notice another buried aspect of the Elmhurst story: The final paragraph reveals that one of the women who was arrested for prostitution was only 17 years old, and therefore released. This is because of a new law, the Illinois Safe Children Act, which will end the practice of prosecuting young people who have been prostituted, and instead offer them a safe place to stay and services. This law was an initiative of our End Demand campaign, and we’re extremely proud to see that it’s working!

To learn more about how you can help with the End Demand Illinois campaign, please visit www.enddemandillinois.org.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Demi and Ashton's Real Men Campaign

Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore unveiled a new campaign today called Real Men, which targets the demand for child prostitution. This is exciting news, and we love Ashton and Demi's DNA Foundation.

We want to recognize, however, the alarming emergence of the idea that sex trafficking is only wrong if it affects children. "Real men protect, respect and care for girls," Demi said. "Real men don’t buy girls." This is, at the same time, both wonderful and misleading messaging. People purchasing children for sex are indeed committing a heinous crime that happens all too often. But Demi then made a comment that it is acceptable for men to buy sex from a woman who chooses prostitution. That is a myth. Real men must not buy sex from women, men, girls or boys and here's why:

Most women in prostitution did not choose it. Free choice implies that a prostituted person has been presented with a variety of options and simply picks the one she feels is in her best interest. This is rarely the case for those who end up in the sex trade. The most common reason women enter prostitution is to meet basic survival needs. Many others were coerced or abused by sex traffickers. One study indicates that 92% of women in prostitution would like to escape it immediately.

That being said, great awareness was raised today about sex trafficking. We especially like Real Men's focus on ending the demand for prostitution, which is the purpose of our End Demand Illinois campaign. If there were no demand, there would be no prostitution. Let's just make sure the Real Men campaign targets the trafficking of all people, regardless of their age. To find out how you can help, download our 10 Actions on 10 Issues guide for real, simple ways you can end sexual exploitation.

Here's the video of the press conference:

Watch live streaming video from cgi_press at livestream.com

Monday, September 20, 2010

Women Taxi Drivers Are Important Part of a Bigger Story

I loved reading Tracy Swartz's article about the two strong female cabbies in today's Red Eye. I always want to hear more about successful women in traditionally male-dominated industries.  These two women are among the 120 female licensed cab drivers in the city of Chicago and as you may guess, their experience is a bit different than the traditional male driver.

One relates: "You have to be on the defense without being rude. You have to expect what you'd never expect." The story reveals that these women have faced sexual harassment, attacks by male passengers and solicitations for prostitution.  While I am not surprised to hear these stories, it adds a new dimension to the story of sex trafficking in Chicago.

We have heard stories of male cab drivers who share profits with pimps and help the sex trade to thrive. Not all cabbies of course, but some cabbies are regularly paid for referring customers to pimps. This came to light in the just-released research on 25 Ex-Pimps in Chicago. This study by Jody Raphael and Brenda Myers-Powell documents how profit sharers all play a role in the sex-trade. They report: "Pimps said they shared profits with a host of other actors, including lawyers and doctors, but also bellman, hotel clerks, bartenders, and cab drivers, all of whom were regularly paid for referring customers."

The act of cab customers soliciting female cabbies for paid sex is clearly unacceptable. Why then do we tolerate the actions of those who perpetuate the demand for prostitution in Chicago? It’s time to speak up and to combat forced prostitution and human trafficking. This effort takes the collaboration of many, including criminal justice professionals and politicians. We must End Demand for prostitution in Illinois. 

According to the article, these two female cabbies will soon leave their cabs behind and move on to new careers. One will run for Alderman and one will study criminal justice. I wish them luck in their new careers and know of a movement that could use their help.

Lindsey LaPointe is a Policy Intern for the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Five Truths About Prostitution

Sudhir Venkatesh is wrong about prostitution. In his recent Washington Post column, “Five myths about prostitution,” he presents a set of skewed and harmful untruths. Here are some real truths here in Chicago and, almost certainly, across the country:

1. Venkatesh says that many men who pay for sex end up “just talking” to prostituted women instead of requiring them to perform a sex act. This is false. Of the 113 men interviewed in a CAASE study about the demand for prostitution, 100% of the men who self-identified as buying sex were purchasing a sex act. Of those interviewed, 53% purchased sex as frequently as once a month to several times a week.

2. He claims that prostitutes are motivated by money and are not coerced or abused. His examples of “high-end” and well-educated women in prostitution are misleading. In “Sisters Speak Out: The Lives and Needs of Prostituted Women in Chicago,” more than 60% of prostituted women reported domestic violence in their household and 21.4% of women in escort services being raped more than 10 times.

3. The relationship between women who are prostituted and the police is not nearly as rosy as Venkatesh asserts. Of all the prostitution-related arrests in Chicago over the course of a year, approximately two thirds of arrests are people who are being prostituted while only one third are customers. Less than one percent of arrests are of pimps and traffickers.

4. Until Craigslist closed its U.S. adult services section last week, there were hundreds of local postings in Chicago every single day. Most were extremely graphic and dehumanizing. These listings continue to be posted on Craigslist’s international websites.

5. More must be done to show our culture the harms of prostitution and the ways to end sexual exploitation.
What can you do?

1. Share this link with 5 people you know, and leave us a comment on this blog post.
2. Sign up for our newsletter! Send an email to Kristin “at” caase.org with the subject line “newsletter” to learn more about our events.
3. Read and take action with one of these 100 meaningful ways you can demand change.

-Kristin Claes is Communications Manager for the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Abuse isn’t Cheeky. At All.

About to embark on a move to Germany, airport travel has been weighing on my mind as my departure date gets closer. An organized person might be focusing on practical things like rolling underwear neatly into shoes to obtain maximum use out of every square inch in the suitcase but I am not said organized person. My travel concerns are which vintage suitcase will look best on the baggage claim and which shoes will best compliment the blue bins when going through security. I must not be the only person in the world who is more concerned with the aesthetics of travel than practicality because there is a website entirely devoted to stickers that will “draw attention to your bag and [make] it easily identifiable and sure to make you some new friends.”

“Take a stand against monotonous travel with Suitcase Stickers.”, the Cheeky.com website reads. Running my mouse over the four available stickers, the enlarged images pop up. Three stickers show a suitcase torn away to reveal something “daring” and “risqué”: bundles of money, bags of cocaine, and a plethora of sex toys. The fourth sticker made me catch my breath. Inside the suitcase was a weeping woman bound and gagged. Upon closer inspection I could see that she was an air stewardess and her facial expression is absolutely terrified.

My mind started racing with incredibility that a company was making a $15 profit from this horrifying image of a violated and abused woman. Hadn’t they heard about domestic violence, rape, or sex trafficking? Didn’t they know that this is the reality for thousands upon thousands of women?

Since I have taken a vow of boisterous noise when confronted with injustice I thought I should tell them. I wrote them this letter:

Dear Cheeky.com,

When you created the sticker of a woman bound and gagged in a suitcase I don't think that you were considering the horrifying reality that thousands of women and young girls are trafficked into America every year to become sex slaves. Violence against women isn't cheeky or funny. It's not cleaver or witty to reproduce age old beliefs that women are less valuable than men and that it doesn't matter if they are gagged, beaten, and stuffed into a suitcase like any other object. I'd like to hope you have more educated people on staff who can create products that don't use abused women as the source of a joke.

Please remove this product from your site. And please educate yourself on this issue by visiting sites like www.love146.org and reading books like Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Day Slavery by Siddharth Kara.


Mamie Adams

I felt satisfied with my response but wondered, who else is getting upset about this enough to do something about it? Further investigation led me to news articles that covered these stickers but they managed to completely fail at discussing the abused woman. One news source described it as “luggage porn” which is alarming that when they think of a woman bound and gagged this reminds them of pornography. Focus was more on the offense to airport personnel rather than the offense to victims of gender violence.

What this sticker shows is that violence against women is treated lightly and as a joke. There is a hardly surprising lack of outcry to TheCheeky.com because it’s not just this one website and it’s not just this one instance that treats violence against women as a comical joke at which to smirk or smile. In the undertones and fabric of our society there is a common and widespread notion that women are worth less than men and are valued more for their sexuality than person-hood.

I have yet to hear a response from TheCheeky.com to my email. But I can smile knowing that I will never be silent when violence against women is used for a joke. When I travel to Germany this fall I hope that wherever in the world I may be, in an airport, in Chicago or Berlin, that I always raise my voice for the voiceless.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Become educated and take action in your community!

More often than not, people assume that prostitution and sex trafficking do not happen in their hometown or city, instead they, like millions of others, believe that sex trafficking and sexual exploitation is an issue that exists only in underdeveloped countries. This misconception blinds the world of the reality. Sexual exploitation is a wide spread, growing issue and is happening in our own backyard-Chicago. Between 16,000 and 24,000 women and girls are impacted by the sex trade in Chicago every day. Not such a small problem, is it? In fact, prostitution is a pervasive issue that affects an immeasurable number of women and girls. These women and girls are frequently victimized and enslaved by pimps and traffickers who use abusive tactics (physical, sexual, psychological) to control and exploit them. Pimping is form of modern day slavery and should not be tolerated in any part of the world, including Chicago.

As part of combating sexual exploitation, CAASE is developing a Community Response Toolkit for community members to raise awareness and to mobilize their communities to work towards ending sexual exploitation. CAASE recognizes that if there weren’t any men purchasing sex, then there would be no prostitution in our communities. Eliminating the demand will ultimately end sexual exploitation. To accomplish this goal, communities need to first become aware of the issue. Next, communities need to continue to create awareness and educate their fellow community members and organizations about the harms of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, and to work with them to identify ways to take action toward change. Communities and its individuals, big or small, can have an amazing impact towards ending sexual exploitation and CAASE encourages everyone to take action towards creating a global world free from sexual harm.

Although the Community Response Toolkit is under development, here are a few action steps that you can begin to take within your community:

1) Attend your neighborhood CAPS meeting - Help refocus the response of law enforcement and community members toward addressing demand by raising awareness of sexual exploitation and the harms to those being prostituted. Advocate that they spend their resources targeting the demand side, not supply. You can encourage your CAPS beat facilitator to invite a guest speaker to speak about prostitution in the community. If you are interested in having someone speak to your community, please contact CAASE.

2) Get involved with district subcommittee meetings - Contact the Community Policing Office in your local district for information on subcommittee meetings. Choose one, such as the domestic violence subcommittee, and attend the monthly meetings to become informed about the issue, as well as to bring issues, such as sexual exploitation, to the table.

3) Use fair trade coffee or have traffick-free chocolate parties – Buy fair trade and traffick-free chocolate and coffee and use them as an entry point for conversations with friends, family, and neighbors about human trafficking, both abroad and in Illinois. Use fair trade coffee at community and private functions and encourage surrounding communities (especially schools, colleges, and local shops) to do the same.

And please encourage others to do the same!

C. O’Leary and O. Howard, The Prostitution of Women and Girls in Metropolitan Chicago: A Preliminary Prevalence Report (Center for Impact Research, 2001)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Delicate Balance

Since the moment I interviewed to be a “legal intern” at CAASE, this organization has proved to be unlike any I have ever seen.

Officially, I assist in the “representation of clients who have experienced sexual exploitation.” Specifically, clients are usually victims of either sexual assault or sex trafficking.” In reality, it’s much more complicated than that.

As a legal intern, I work within two distinct arenas: the legal and advocacy fields, and the latter is often referred to as “the movement.” This distinction has been critical to understanding my role and facing the sometimes heartbreaking challenges.

On my first day we went to a meeting with what I describe as some suits from the State’s Attorney’s office to politely disagree with the way they prosecute – or do not prosecute – sexual assault cases. Nice first day, right? It was certainly time for my big girl pants. Put in a more eloquent way, this is the policy side of the job that requires patience and professionalism in the face of a great institutional barrier to justice for victims of sexual violence.

After that introduction into my new world, it was back to the office where all the other interns were buzzing about the upcoming play that CAASE and End Demand Illinois was launching. The two-part play was a depiction of the harsh realties of prostitution and exposed the ignorance about what “the life” does to young girls and women – the same ignorance I saw earlier that day at the State’s Attorney’s office. The only difference was that most people in the audience were already part of the movement, and it was the suits that should have been in attendance.

From that first day, it became clear that on top of all of the emotions I would experience as a result of working with victims of sexual exploitation, I needed to see these different worlds for what they are and appreciate the frustration that would stem from such a dichotomy. In other words, I needed to adjust my expectations for the crowd – the suits of the legal field would need a little more patience.

When I hear a police officer or other criminal justice actor imply that a rape victim becomes less credible because she showered after her assault, because she took a few days to cope with the trauma of what was done to her body, or because she can’t exactly remember what time it was when she was coming in and out of consciousness during the attack, I have to remind myself of the imaginary line between these worlds. I have to remember that not everyone grasps the who, what, where, when, and most importantly, the why of sexual violence against women.

Not to imply that the only troubling side of my internship is the legal field; in fact, I often become frustrated with individuals in the movement. There are the typical divisions that sometimes impede the progress of any issue-based movement, but advocates also sometimes forget about this gap between worlds. What I have learned is that advocates also struggle with this delicate balance. How far do you go to agitate the legal system before inadvertently leaving it in the dust?

What I have learned while working at CAASE is that we cannot expect the criminal justice system to miraculously change, but that we should also never stop shaking the trees in hopes of small victories. Enough adages for you? Here’s one more - I guess it’s all in a day’s work.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Porn Free, Live Free- Mamie Adams

Being an intern at CAASE has taught me many things thus far, and I have found myself connecting and integrating my internship with my life. “Hmm”, I’ve thought to myself, “That color blue on the walls really would work in my living room.” I have also wanted to become a spin instructor, just like Rachel,the Executive Director of CAASE, and have a little dog as cute as Maggie who comes to the office daily. My new found inspiration at CAASE hardly stops there. I have begun to see the world of exploitation in a new light and my own life as well. I must confess I used to be a woman who would watch porn on my own and think that I was sexually empowering myself. “See? I can do it too and wow, aren’t I just the fifth Sex and the City gal to come along!” My interest in porn quickly fizzled since what I find erotic was never represented . But it wasn’t until my internship at CAASE that I truly understood the problems of the porn industry. Watching the movie, “The Price of Pleasure”, certainly ended any doubt in my mind that porn can be good. I have been vegan for some years now and when people think that’s extreme I don’t mind. When exploitation is extreme and prolific, then I don’t mind having an extreme response by not involving myself or participating at all. The same has gone for porn now and I am happy to say that I am porn free. The following essay comes from comparing my past (and present) veganism with my now present anti-porn stance.

What do the porn and fast food industries have in common aside from the fact that they are both an ordinary and daily part of the majority of American’s lives? Exploitation, propagating false information, and devaluing life are the main ingredients of both. While one exploits women, the other, animals. They make a tremendous profit by turning women into “sex objects” and animals into “meat; both being consumable and discard-able.

Fast food corporations turn our survival cravings for food into their marketable gain. Fast food uses unnecessary fat and salt to provide a quick fix to hunger that makes us fill up faster but leaves us only temporarily satisfied and wanting more before long. The industry cleverly disguises the high caloric content and the animal cruelty that goes into their cheap cheeseburgers and milkshakes. In the last few years it has become a trend for a few fast food chains to claim that animals are treated well and they paint a pretty picture of cows and pigs grazing on acres of land. This fabrication of the truth leads people to believe that animals are comfortable and happy to be commodities in the industry. Chipotle touts their treatment of pigs as excellent; however, the motive is solely to ensure a pleasurable taste for the consumer once the animal has been killed.

“Pigs raised in this way are not given antibiotics, and their feed does not contain animal by-products. They are free to roam the pasture, to root in deeply bedded barns, and to socialize with other pigs. We believe pigs that are cared for in this way enjoy happier, healthier lives and produce the best pork we've ever tasted.”

–Chipotle’s official website

Misguiding terms such as cage-free, organic, and free-range are harmful because there is no strict enforcement. The hidden truth is that animals live in horrifying conditions of cruelty, torture, and death. We are too far removed from the realities of factory farming and we wrongly rely on the industries themselves to reassure us of their conduct.

“Farmed animals are routinely tortured as a part of standard agricultural practice. They're debeaked. They're castrated without anesthesia or pain medication on a regular basis. They are treated with disrespect and ignorance, regarded with indifference to their needs and desires, and controlled with intolerance if they resist being dominated. This is the unavoidable reality of an industry that exploits animals for profit.”

-Cayce Mell, co-founder of Oohmahnee Sanctuary

Ensuring the rights of individuals in the pornography industry is just as difficult and as low of a priority. There is not someone present at every video shoot to guarantee that each and every woman feels safe and comfortable with each and every act. Women in pornography are instructed to act as the director sees fit, not how they feel sexually enjoyable. Their forced and faked moans of pleasure are meant for male pleasure, not their own.

The pornography industry thrives on our society’s lack of equality for women. In a society where it is a standard that women earn less than men and where rape victims are treated with disrespect and shame, it is not a surprise that the pornography industry can profit from women’s bodies being used for sex. Women’s bodies are used as a commodity and like any object for sale, they are easily usable, abuse-able, and discard-able.

Consumers of fast food and pornography do not know, and do not want to know the ingredients of what they are purchasing. It is much more preferable to remain blissfully ignorant under the falsities that animals and women are happy and content with their role in these industries. Women enjoy having body-punishing sex with several men in a shoot and animals enjoy eating food all day in cages. The pornography and fast food industries are vocal in supporting and spreading this fallacy. It is outright dangerous and insupportable that these billion-dollar corporations are giving the public the impression that women are empowered in pornography and animals are living an ideal life in cage-free environments. The truth is that many women are sexually exploited for money and paid to look like they enjoy it and animals are trapped in small areas that are deemed “cage-free” by regulations that are far from satisfactory. The notion that women and animals are happy living in exploitive circumstances is steeped in an age old belief that they are too stupid and valueless to live any differently. These industries reinforce the notion that women are born for the sexual pleasure of men and animals are born for the eating pleasure of people.

I call upon you, dear reader, that when you scoff at an adult video store billboard on the highway that you also recognize the exploitation and oppression behind a towering McDonalds sign. We have the power to tear down and put an end to the illusions that the pornography and fast food industries try to sell us. Exploitation is exploitation is exploitation. Please join me in thinking critically about what these industries are doing behind the scenes and how that impacts our society and lives.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Reflections of a Repentant Strip Club Bouncer

Hello, my name is John, and I’m a recovering strip club bouncer (Hi, John).

I am here today to get some things off my chest. To tell you why my conscience has been bothering me for some time. To tell you how I deviated from a value-driven upbringing into a dark age of seedy scheming as a door guy at a number of topless clubs over a five-year span. Unlike most of the unfortunate women who are drawn or forced into the sex industry due to a lack of viable earning options, I had a number of opportunities to work honestly elsewhere. I wasn’t seduced by ‘the game’ because of what friends and customers assumed to be the obvious perks of working with naked, mostly beautiful women; I was enchanted by the green paper than doubles as morality’s kryptonite.

What’s that? You didn’t think bouncers made much money? Think again. In the strip club money is everywhere, and dancers aren’t the only ones exposing themselves to get it.

The most gratifying experiences invariably occur as a result of hard work and sacrifice: Four years of determined studying results in graduation and a degree; commitment and compromise and extensive planning results in a wedding day; long hours in the kitchen baking, blending and basting result in Thanksgiving dinner. There is virtually nothing worth pride that is not owed to some kind of prolonged challenge necessitating its realization. Though the lap dance results in gratification - the male customer satisfies a primitive need to exert control or fill an emotional void while the dancer benefits financially- the sacrifice of time is not progressive. Indeed, the additive effect of each lap dance is regressive in an emotional sense, and in many cases a financial one. Though women in the sex industry might make more money per hour than a woman with an office or restaurant job, the strip club atmosphere is rife with drugs and drinking. In my experience, it was not uncommon to see a dancer end her shift and spend up to six more hours in the club drinking, smoking, and frequently running to her car or bathroom and returning with a sudden violent cough or case of the sniffles. The strip club lifestyle is a powerful, insidious cocoon of temptation that preys on vulnerability through impulse and illusion. Though her flesh and opportunity are the only requisites for a woman to make money- and sometimes very good money- the ironic twist is that in life’s bigger picture, even if she is strong enough to avoid drugs and alcohol, the sacrifices of dignity and physical and emotional health are much more significant and far less rewarding than those required by conventional professional and academic advancement.

The rituals of the strip club are obviously less visceral and risky than those of prostitution, but the underlying premise is the same- trading sex for money- and while it is an easy and convenient arrangement for the male customer and pimp, for the female performer, it is a tragic existence of subjugation, danger, and indignation. This fundamental reality is the foundation of my regret. Though I worked hard each night bussing tables and moving chairs, and taking out the trash and stocking glassware, I made most of my money via two basic methods: 1) accommodating a customer’s lust by selling a dream, and 2) enhancing a dancer’s income by setting her up with customers possessing fat wallets or no discipline or both. Though I was not self-employed, in a technical interpretation of the word I was a pimp due to my role as match-maker and protector, two services for which I was compensated by one or both of the parties involved. As I reflect on my time as a bouncer, I am amazed at how effectively everyone involved lied to each other and themselves in order to pretend that happiness and genuine gratification could come from such an arrangement.

The ‘easy’ theme is prevalent in the strip club:

• It’s easier to deal with life’s problems by taking drugs and drinking to escape rather than meeting them head-on and seeking healthy, productive solutions. The strip club makes most of its money on alcohol sales, and drugs permeate the landscape. The lifestyle is fast and full of false happiness.
• It’s easier for men to pay women for dances and sex than to bridge the emotional and physical rift that has grown between them and their girlfriends or wives. Many customers are married, and if they spend enough in the VIP sections, some dancers go beyond simply dancing to realize a big payday. The line between stripping and outright prostitution would get blurry on weekend nights at the club.
• It’s easier for bouncers to run around the floor facilitating faux-mating rituals and making more money than 25% of the dancers in the club than it is to check IDs at Joe’s pub and make $8-$10/hour. Though there were scrapes from time to time, the bouncers where I worked, including myself, were not very large or intimidating. We preemptively stopped fights before they happened by shaking hands, arranging dances, and behaving like indentured sycophants who made sure not to trip any testosterone triggers.

Social hierarchies form through the competitive pursuit and accumulation of money, and while the strip club is no different than the rest of the world in this regard, the process is more frenzied and overt since there is a limited time frame (a given shift during hours of operation) for each person to secure his or her piece of the pie. Dancers seek big spenders, servers seek tables with big head counts, and bouncers seek to arrange popular dancers with big spenders and good servers with big tables. Though the bouncers pooled money at the end of the night, the green fruit of our pockets reflected each man’s skill at selling fantasy and his level of camaraderie with the girls; it determined a pecking order based on salesmanship and hustling.

My purpose in revealing the inner workings of a strip club is not to justify or rationalize my involvement in the industry, but I want you to understand how good people- people you might call your friends or brothers or sisters- can be drawn to it because of the vast amount of money it offers, and how cold, calculating structure and desensitization can result from being immersed within it. It was incredibly easy making money off of the backs of women, as so many others do, and for this I will forever be ashamed. I think of myself as a good person, and despite my time as a strip club bouncer, I have healthy respect and deferential admiration for women. I am certain, however, that many of the women in my life who I profess to admire would be severely disappointed to hear of my involvement in the sex industry.

This missive is merely the first small flower of a burgeoning realization. I was wrong for being a pimp; for profiting from the ever-present male demand for sexual gratification. I was wrong for letting money overpower the values and good judgment that had previously been my behavioral barometers. I was wrong for being a liar; for telling myself that the ends justified the means. I was wrong for being weak and for choosing the easy path.

To women everywhere, I was wrong, and I am truly sorry.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Kids Are NOT For Sale in Chicago

In alliance with Shared Hope International, we invite you to join us in combating the sexual exploitation of children right here in Chicago by raising awareness about this increasingly prevalent problem through social media. The immediate action item of the organization's Social Media Action Kit can help us spread the word about deterring the purchase of sexual acts from minors by leveraging our social networks to communicate this important message. Concurrently, Shared Hope International--with its local partners--will host rallies, trainings, and events throughout the week of June 19th through the 26th for the community to participate in. Help us spread the word and use social media for REAL change!

Kids Are NOT For Sale in Chicago
Social Media Action Kit

This June, Shared Hope International needs your help to spread an important message in Chicago – Kids are NOT for Sale! By using our Social Media Action Kit, you can make a difference without ever leaving your desk.

Take Action in Chicago!

Throughout the month of June, we need freedom fighters on the internet spreading the word that kids are not for sale in Chicago! By effectively using social media networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs, we can encourage all Chicagoans to take a stand against domestic minor sex trafficking!

We have devised three options for awareness via status updates and tweets that you can use to ring the bell in your community:
a.) Statistics on child sex trafficking in Chicago – It’s happening here!
b.) Links to awareness videos, blogs and news that inform Chicagoans on recent and developing news stories.
c.) Promoting Kids Are NOT For Sale Events in Chicago during the last weeks of June.

Additionally, we have a selection of profile badges to use during your campaigning to help inform friends and fans of your cause. Simply upload these in place of your normal Facebook, Myspace, Twitter or blog profile photo for the duration of our campaign.

Feel free to update your status as many times as you like – your voice is SO IMPORTANT to ending the sale of children on Chicago’s streets.

[Copy and paste the following statements as your daily status update.]

SATURDAY- Chicago’s children are being sold on the streets of Chicago EVERY day for commercial sex. Who will be there to stop buyers and traffickers from stealing their innocence? Rescue kids in your area by raising the alarm that KIDS ARE NOT FOR SALE!

SUNDAY- FACT: Most prostituted women and children in Chicago service an average of 10 men per night.

MONDAY- In a study of women involved in Chicago’s sex trade, 62% percent reported that they started before the age of 18. KIDS are NOT for Sale in Chicago!!
TUESDAY - FACT: As many as 25,000 women and children are prostituted in metropolitan Chicago EVERY YEAR. Wake up Chicago – Kids are NOT for Sale!

WEDNESDAY - 21 is the average age of men purchasing sex in Chicago – we need to say NO and END DEMAND!

THURSDAY - 90% of prostituted women and children in Chicago report being physically and sexually abused at the hands of traffickers and customers. Kids are NOT for Sale!

FRIDAY – In a recent study, Chicago men named Craigslist as the website most frequently used to solicit sexual services. REAL MEN DON’T BUY SEX.

SATURDAY - 70% of women involved in the sex industry in Chicago said they had been recruited by a pimp. The other 30% ended up with a pimp by the time they were interviewed. Learn more @ www.sharedhope.org

• In a study of federal, state and local law enforcement officials based in the Chicago metropolitan area, none of the officers personally encountered any international trafficking cases, only domestic cases of commercial sexual exploitation of children.
• Men are soliciting sex with women and minors EVERY DAY in Chicago! Visit http://www.chicagopolice.org/ps/ to see the faces of some who were caught.
• 90: the percentage of Chicago’s sex trade that occurs through “legal” establishments such as escort services, strip clubs and massage parlors. This includes commercial sex with minors and foreign victims. Help END DEMAND!!
• A survey of men who purchased commercial sex revealed that 87% believed women freely choose to enter prostitution; 62% believed the majority of women in prostitution are fully informed about the nature of the sex trade before entry.
• Research shows that 100% of prostitutes in Chicago have experienced some type of violence while in the sex trade. This includes being raped, kicked, threatened with a weapon, punched and slapped.

Links to Information on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking
1. The National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking is PROOF that at least 100,000 American children are being prostituted every year in cities and towns across the U.S. Read more @ www.sharedhope.org
2. If there was no buyer to feed the demand for commercial sex with minors, there would be no market, and there would be no victim. We need to END DEMAND!
3. Spread the word about child sex trafficking in America through this short four minute video. Kids are NOT for Sale in America!
4. American children are being sold into commercial sex – watch this short video and post this onto as many statuses as possible – Kids are NOT For Sale! http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=31723758&id=14502300#!/video/video.php?v=398378178888

For more information, please visit: http://www.sharedhope.org/what/chicago.asp

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Census-Taker's Reflection on Peddling Porn

Lara Janson, a former Comcast employee and now Census-taker, contributes an insightful blog post on the Huffington Post on her reflection of the porn industry and its inconspicuous entry into the homes of our communities.

"When I took a job peddling Comcast door-to-door in Latino areas of Chicago, I did not realize that the question of pornography would be a routine part of my job. And even when I began asking each of my customers if they did want Playboy, I did not make an immediate mental connection between my principal career combating human trafficking and my involvement with Comcast. Well, I did make one connection when I made the decision to start selling Comcast services: I thought the job would keep my Spanish fresh, thus better preparing me to communicate with potential Latina victims I might encounter in my anti-human trafficking work. Little did I know that the vocabulary I would use to ask customers about "pay-per-view" channels would parallel only too closely the terminology I have used in strip clubs when conducting outreach to Latina sex trafficking victims."

Read more here:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Private Lies: Two Plays About Prostitution and Johns

Please Join Us For the Premiere of:

Private Lies: Two Plays About Prostitution and Johns
The Strings Attached by Caleb Probst
The Johns by James Frizzell

Two new one-act plays, written by two Chicago playwrights, examine one problem-prostitution-from a new angle. Caleb Probst's THE STRINGS ATTACHED and James Frizzell's THE JOHNS explore the underlying causes of the demand for prostitution through their portrayals of four men who buy sex.

Raw with emotion, these plays delve into a psychological terrain that still remains largely ignored. The audience is taken to new heights as the dark secrets of those individuals driving the demand for the sex trade are unearthed to reveal their true motivations, encompassing both the horror and banality of exploitation, lust, and power.

The production is presented by End Demand Illinois, a coalition of 20 organizations working to end sexual exploitation by directly addressing the culture, institutions and individuals that perpetrate, profit from or tacitly support sexually exploitative acts against people.

When: May 27th through June 13
Thursday through Saturdays at7 PM
Sundays at 3 PM

Where: Viaduct Theater
3111 North Western Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60618

Cost: $12
Reservations: 773.296.6024

There will be talk-backs with prostitution survivors, experts in the field, and the play's artists following the Thursday and Sunday performances.

Friday, April 30, 2010

For Those Seeking to Take Back the Night in Chicago

© Kaethe Morris Hoffer 2010
Kaethe Morris is the Legal Director of the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation

(*This is a speech given at the University of Chicago’s “Take Back the Night” Rally April 29, 2010.)

Your presence here is love made visible. By standing here you demonstrate concern for those who have been, or are going to be, sexually assaulted. The steps you walk, the words you say, the time you give to talk about, and to oppose, sexual assault, are acts of compassion for victims, and acts of defiance against a culture that continues to deny, to silence, and simultaneously to encourage, the sexual use and abuse of girls and women (and sometimes boys and men) for the pleasure and benefit of people—mostly men—who insist on using their talents to engineer situations in which they can, and do, engage in acts of sexual violation while she (or sometimes he) lies there, or leans there, or is propped up, sometimes inert, sometimes passed out or passing in and out of consciousness, sometimes crying, sometimes resisting, sometimes saying no once, sometimes saying no repeatedly, sometimes whispering opposition quietly, sometimes screaming loudly.

The crux of the problem, as everyone here surely already understands, is threefold: First, there are people, mostly men, who engage in acts of sexual intimacy that are not wanted, that are not asked for, acts for which they do not have consent; Second, and while always insisting that even one raped child or adult is too many, there are way too many men who do this, and way too many girls and women (and boys and men) who are on the receiving end of bodily invasions that leave them feeling forever marked as someone to whom sexual violence can be done with impunity; Third, and crucially, the systems that exist in our communities, which are supposed to deter, to prevent, and to punish acts of sexual violation are so ineffective, so untrustworthy, so backwards, so hostile to seeing and opposing rape as it actually happens, that the overwhelming majority of victims of rape never even report being raped.

In 2010, thanks to girls and women (and some boys and men) who came before us and fought for laws and social change, who endured derision and disrespect, name-calling and physical violence, massive amounts of research has been done and continues to be done on sexual assault, and the criminal law of every state in this country says that it is unlawful for one person—even if married to their victim—to obtain sex from another without consent. But in 2010, thanks to denial, or laziness, or misogyny, or the simple enduring power of tradition and the status quo, the criminal law is being divested of its power to deter or punish sexual assault by a society which continues to treat women—perhaps not intentionally, but certainly in effect—as second-class citizens. Our complaints of rape are now worthy of being recorded by researchers, and sometimes by police, but to the extent that women who are raped in ways that are typical of rape seek to have their rapists investigated or punished, mostly what they discover is a system that is unwilling or unable to stand with them in exposing and punishing their perpetrator.

In Cook County, Illinois, where I practice law, where I listen to and stand with survivors of sexual assault, I hear time and time again that prosecutors in Chicago—the women and men whose job it is to enforce the criminal laws of this state—will not charge a man who is known to his victim with sexual assault unless they have “corroborative evidence” like contemporaneous third-party witness testimony, serious bodily injury, or offender confession. To be clear—what I see, and hear, and was specifically told by a Cook County sex crimes prosecutor, is that it is the policy of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office to refuse to authorize felony sexual assault charges against a man unless the rape was witnessed by someone else, or it was so violent as to leave her with visible bodily injuries, or he was so stupid as to admit that he did not have her consent to do what he did. Now, to be clear, I should also say that the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office officially denies that this is their policy. In fact, they claim that they are willing to prosecute rape even when the “only” evidence they have of it is the testimony of the victim herself. But while scientific research has made many realities of rape incontrovertible, I have yet to see any evidence that local prosecutors are willing to prosecute rape as it mostly occurs.

In the same way that science has established that human behavior has an impact on the global climate (and in the same way that there continue to be people who lie about the problem) there are many things that have now been established as true regarding rape. The first thing that we know is that rape is not rare. In fact, the research suggests that any time you are with more than five women, you are likely sharing space with a women who has been, or will be, subjected to forcible sex. Other things that we know about rape are these: it is mostly committed by boys and men who are known to their victims; it mostly leaves its victims harmed and wounded but lacking serious or visible ‘bodily’ injury; it mostly happens in private; it mostly is committed by men who insist—and perhaps genuinely believe—that they did nothing wrong; it mostly occurs within, and not across, socio-economic, racial, and ethnic lines. Fundamentally, any person who is reasonably well educated about rape will recognize that the bulk of what passes as conventional wisdom about rape is wrong, it is frequently racist and classist, and it fundamentally impairs the ability of most well-meaning people to believe women in the aftermath of rape victims—because girls and women who have been raped usually report experiences that contradict everything our culture still wants us to believe about sexual assault.

And of course, girls and women who experience rape are frequently the first people to doubt themselves. They learn the hard way that rapists don’t look like homeless men, they look like the hottie from math class. They learn the hard way that it is romantic dates, and not dark alleys, that make them vulnerable to rape. They learn the hard way that it is classmates bearing six-packs, and not strangers bearing guns, who target them for rape. They learn the hard way that their response to forced sex is to freeze or cry, rather than fight or attack. While science does reveal that some women falsely claim to have been raped—just as (and no more frequently than) some people make false claims about being mugged, or file fraudulent insurance claims, or engage in other acts of deception, the truth about lies in the context of rape is that the most common lie about rape is that it didn’t occur. Mostly, when women lie about being raped, it is the lie they begin telling themselves while the rape is going on. It is “this isn’t happening” “this can’t be happening” “I’m not being raped” “I can’t have been raped” “he wouldn’t rape me” “he can’t be raping me” “he didn’t rape me….did he?”

And while rape teaches its victims the hard way the truth about rape, too many people who have not been raped continue to cling to outdated myths about rape—just like people who deny global warming—because the realities of rape are far more disturbing than the falsehoods they have grown up with.
So those of you who are here, who either know about rape because you have survived it, or because you have opened your eyes and your ears and your hearts and your minds to everything about it that is knowable, have in front of you the following task: You must insist that the realities of rape are acknowledged—even though the reality is much more unpleasant that the fiction. You must insist that rape as it happens is prosecuted—even though rape as it happens is much harder to prosecute than rape as it is imagined. You must resist, with every skill that you have, all of the lies about rape that continue to be promulgated and nurtured and supported in our culture.

Because you are here, I know that you have already resisted most of what our culture wants us to believe about rape. Because you are here you have already rejected the lie that rape is rare. You have probably rejected the lie that it is being dealt with properly or well by the criminal justice system. And I hope you have rejected one of the worst lies of all—the lie that rape is inevitable, that it is a problem that can not be eradicated.

Because while research confirms what women tell us about the men who do rape, research and women also reveal this: MOST men never commit rape. Think about it. The overwhelming majority of men never, that means not once, have sex with someone who is not a willing partner. And here is another thing that we know: most men who do engage in rape—while they frequently rape many more than one woman in their life—actually spend most of their time not raping. Like most men, they go to school, they go to work, they eat dinner, they work out, they even interact with women—all while not raping. They even, frequently, have sex that is the result of mutual desire and consent. In other words, they demonstrate a clear ability to refrain from engaging in rape.

So if most men can refrain from engaging in rape for all of their lives, and if men who do like to rape are capable of refraining from rape for most of the hours of their day, and most of the days of their week, then rape can be refrained from. And if it can be refrained from, it doesn’t have to happen. It is not inevitable. Currently, rape happens because there are men who like to rape, and they rape when they think they can get away with it. And everything our culture continues to pretend about rape helps them get away with it. And most of the systems that are in place to stop them or punish them aren’t doing what they can or they should to respond to them. So as you continue to work to reveal the truth and destroy the lies about rape that nurture its existence in our culture, keep this truth at the center—rape is not inevitable. We can take back the night. We can take back the day. We can, and together, we will.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Effects of China's One-Child Family Policy on the Commercial Sex Trade by Jamie Lynn Johnson

What happens in a culture where males are so heavily valued over females that many families choose to abort or even commit infanticide in order to have a son and assure their family name will be carried on, their family property will stay in the family, and they will have someone to care for them in their old age? To answer this question, all one has to do is take a look overseas at China. The gender imbalance that China is currently facing due to the One-Child Family policy offers unique insight into the cultural and social ramifications of gender inequality.

In an effort to maintain economic stability, the Chinese government enacted the One-Child Family policy, limiting urban couples to one child per family and rural couples to two children per family (but, only if the first child is a girl or one of the parents is the only child from their family). After 25 years of enforcing such a policy—within a culture where males are heavily preferred over females—the results are staggering and have various ramifications. According to a Washington Times article, Chinese boys now outnumber Chinese girls by the millions. Research conducted in 2009 by the BMJ (formerly known as the British Medical Journal) revealed that in the year 2005, there were 32 million extra Chinese men under the age of 20, and that 1.1 million extra males were born in just that year. Recently, the government-backed Chinese Academy of Social Services (CASS) predicted that 24 million Chinese men might not be able to find brides in 2020. However, previous estimates put that number in the 30 million to 50 million range (Wetzstein, 2010). The impact of the lopsided sex imbalance is starting to spill beyond China's borders. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that many other Asian countries with declining fertility rates and a traditional preference for males are also seeing sex-ratio imbalances: Taiwan, 1.19; Singapore, 1.18; South Korea, 1.12; and parts of northern India, 1.20—largely because of sex-selective abortion (Hesketh, 2005).

The Chinese government has acknowledged the potentially disastrous social consequences of this sex imbalance. In addition to increased mental health problems and socially disruptive behaviors among men, the shortage of women has resulted in kidnapping and trafficking of women for marriage and increased numbers of commercial sex workers (Hesketh, 2005).This phenomenon of "missing girls" has turned China into "a giant magnet" for human traffickers, who lure or kidnap women and sell them—even multiple times—into forced marriages or the commercial sex trade, stated Ambassador Mark Lagon, who oversaw human rights issues at the State Department during the administration of President George W. Bush. Lagon asserts, "The impact is obvious. It's creating a 'Wild West' sex industry in China," (Wetzstein, 2010).

Horrified by the egregious practices of kidnapping, human trafficking, and sexual slavery that have become “solutions” to the growing problem of gender imbalance, HBO filmed a documentary which brings viewers face-to-face with the crisis brought on by the controversial one child policy. “China’s Stolen Children” tells the story of two parents
who hire a martial arts expert working to recover kidnapped children in an effort to search for their son. We also see a young couple who are forced to sell their daughter because they are too young to marry and obtain a birth permit. The narrator, Ben Kinsley, states, “The Chinese government doesn’t want the outside world to know about the crisis facing China’s children, so this film had to be made entirely undercover. The film crew posed as tourists, moved hotels every three days, and changed SIM cards after every phone call.”

The One-Child Family policy was passed as a way to protect China from economic collapse, but there are clearly unintended consequences affecting the lives of millions of its people. The propagation of human trafficking and sexual exploitation its influence by people, ideas, and governmental policy. It is important that when approaching the fight to end human trafficking that all such influences are considered.


The Effect of China's One-Child Family Policy after 25 Years
Therese Hesketh, Ph.D., Li Lu, M.D., and Zhu Wei Xing, M.P.H.
The New England Journal of Medicine
Volume 353:1171-1176 September 15, 2005

With 1-child policy, China 'missing' girls
'Gendercide' fueling sex trade the Washington Times January 27, 2010 By
Cheryl Wetzstein