Friday, March 2, 2012

Local Sex Trafficking Arrests, Training Signs of Progress

We wanted to share some signs of progress in the fight against sex trafficking in Illinois.

First of all, law enforcement is holding more pimps and traffickers accountable and offering services to survivors of the sex trade. Recently, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office arrested a Chicago man, Henry McLaurin, who was then charged with one count of promoting prostitution and one count of domestic battery. McLaurin had been placing ads for women he prostituted on, where he would arrange "dates" with johns and then pocket the profits from the women he prostituted. The women who law enforcement encountered in this case were not arrested but instead offered supportive services, which recognized that they were in need of help.

We are pleased that Chicago law enforcement has increased awareness and dedication to learning how to identify and help trafficked individuals.

Also in the news recently, the Chicago Police Department hosted a training on prostitution and forced labor at its headquarter, highlighting terms to understand, why demand continually fuels the sex trade, and ways to identify victims of human trafficking. Read more about that training there.

While it may seem discouraging that Chicago is a central hub for trafficking, you can help to change that.
Continue to encourage law enforcement to focus on the perpetrators of the sex trade -- to arrest and prosecute the pimps and johns whose livelihood is the sexual exploitation and violation of women. Support rehabilitation organizations that provide survivors of prostitution with much needed services. To learn more about how you can help, visit End Demand, Illinois.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lifetime Glamorizes Prostitution

I don’t need to watch the forthcoming Lifetime television series, “The Client List,” to know it glamorizes the sex trade and dismisses the harm prostitution causes to women and girls. All I needed to do was click on the preview page on the website, which has a giant photo of Jennifer Love Hewitt in her underwear and a 15 second voice-over with seductive music, describing how she’s recruited into the sex trade in a small town massage parlor:

The series follows Riley balancing these two worlds - one that revolves around her kids and family - and the other that revolves around the massage parlor and it’s [sic] special clientele. These two worlds couldn’t be farther apart, yet she’s totally comfortable in both.

To us, this sounds like a john’s fantasy, which is to say, entirely delusional. Johns (men who buy sex) want to see things like this on TV because it legitimizes their behavior. The sad truth is that prostitution in massage parlors is happening here in Illinois and harming women and girls in our own community.

Just in the past year, several Illinois massage parlors have been shut down because of prostitution and, more to the point, for sex trafficking. A recent conviction of a pimp in Mt. Prospect, Illinois, shows how traffickers recruit and keep women in the sex trade through massage parlors.

Unfortunately, law enforcement’s approach to addressing these harms is usually to simply arrest the women working inside and to let the owners and johns go (as happened this week in Ottawa, Illinois). So the plot point that Riley should be worried about being arrested is certainly accurate, but that wouldn’t be her only concern. She would, most likely, live in fear of violence.

If the accounts of johns chatting with each other in online message boards is any indication, being prostituted in a massage parlor is not fun work. Johns describe groping, assaulting and denying pay to the women working in Illinois massage parlors. Most women in prostitution experience fear, threats and violence at the hands of pimps, johns and traffickers. More than 20% of women working in escort services and exotic dancing report being raped more than 10 times.

Lifetime says it’s “committed to offering the highest quality entertainment and information programming content that celebrates, entertains and supports women.” Tell Lifetime you don’t think The Client List does any of those things by sending them a message, boycotting this show and asking your friends to do the same.

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