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)