Friday, September 16, 2011

Woman escapes trafficking in the Congo, Belgium, finds asylum in Chicago

Last month, a judge in Chicago granted asylum to a Congolese woman who was a survivor of sex trafficking. Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the young woman’s parents died when she was 18. With no other options, she was forced into prostitution by a friend of the family in exchange for shelter. Later, a man took her as his sex slave and trafficked her to Belgium. After enduring rape, being tattooed with his name and brainwashed, she eventually escaped to the United States.

Her story is more important than ever as we gather on Monday, Sept. 19 here in Chicago for the Town Hall Meeting to raise awareness about human trafficking. Ultimately, the goal of the meeting is to raise support for the reauthorization of the Trafficking Victim Protection Act (TVPA). The protections from the TVPA are cited as part of the decision:

In the instant case, the Court finds that the respondent has established through her credible testimony that she is a victim of a "severe form" of sex trafficking under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which defines sex trafficking as "the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act" and lists "sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion" as a severe form of sex trafficking.

Another important facet of the judge’s decision is the recognition that because the young woman had been prostituted in the Congo, the woman faced potential persecution and trafficking if she were to return to her country. We applaud this acknowledgment that her gender, history with prostitution and trafficking would indeed put her further at risk.  

It’s worth reading the whole decision if you have time. Many kudos to the judge, Virginia Perez-Guzman, the National Immigrant Justice Center and pro bono attorneys from the Chicago office of McDermott Will & Emery LLP who all worked on this case. We found out about this through Bender’s Immigration Bulletin.

Please join us for this event to help others who rely on the protections of this law to seek justice.  To learn more about Monday’s Town Hall event, click here.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sex Trafficking and Prostitution Busts This Weekend in Chicago

 Two news stories broke over the weekend about charges related to sex trafficking and prostitution here in Chicagoland.

A 27-year-old Chicago woman was charged with involuntary sexual servitude of a minor and human trafficking for forced labor. She had allegedly forced a 16-year-old girl to have sex with strangers for money. The Chicago Police Department saw ads for the girl posted on the internet and discovered her during a sting. The girl was taken to a nearby hospital to be treated. (Story in the Chicago Tribune here).

A sting in Lansing, Illinois led to the arrest of four women, including one who was allegedly keeping a house of prostitution. The spa where they worked was found to be a front for a house of prostitution. The women in this case were offered services from the Cook County Sheriff’s Women’s Justice Programs. (Story in the Northwest Times here).

We applaud local law enforcement for their leadership in holding pimps and traffickers accountable, while also offering supportive services to survivors of the trade. While we don’t know the exact details of these cases, women in the sex trade sometimes turn to pimping and trafficking as a means of survival. This is the sad reality in a cycle of exploitation. By proposing an infrastructure of services and viable alternatives for women engaged in the sex trade, our End Demand Illinois campaign is working to address these issues.

You can stand up by asking your community to address demand in these situations. Who were the men buying sex in that spa? Who was purchasing a 16 –year-old girl for sex? These are the unmentioned aspects of these stories that must be talked about.

Learn how to take action by signing up for our End Demand action alerts here.

While the campaign is Illinois-specific, it has national influence and resources that can be used anywhere.
To see the new End Demand Illinois campaign website, visit 

(Photo Creative Commons by roger g1)