Tuesday, October 22, 2013

CAASE co-pilots workplace sexual violence curriculum

By Sheerine Alemzadeh

This past Sunday, CAASE co-piloted a full-day training called "Ending Workplace Sexual Violence: A Know Your Rights Curriculum and Guide for Community Educators." The training was hosted by Latino Union of Chicago in Albany Park and led by CAASE staff attorney Sheerine Alemzadeh. The room was packed with 30 people, including not only representatives from the Latino Union and CAASE, but also Rape Victim Advocates, Mujeres Latinas en Acción, the Chicago Coalition of Household Workers, ARISE Chicago, Fight for 15, Chicago Community and Workers Rights Center, and the United Food and Commercial Workers' Union.

The goal of the training was to provide learning tools to organizers and activists in Chicago’s worker rights community to combat workplace sexual violence. Sunday's training included sexual assault 101 training and an introductory module for workers centers, as well as two advanced training modules: for workers experiencing sexual violence and a module on bystander intervention for allies. Participants were also provided with an organizer's legal guide on sexual assault laws in Illinois and English and Spanish know your rights brochures for workers.

The day started with participants sharing the labor of their mothers and grandmothers, and learning about the historical connection between workplace sexual violence and economic inequality. Later, audience members role-played making a report of sexual harassment to their employer, and intervening in support of co-workers experiencing sexual harassment. Presenters also discussed how the legal definition of sexual harassment does not protect workers against a wide range of sexual violence in the workplace. Elisa Ringholm of the Latino Union said, "This training opened the door towards a shared vision in the workers center movement to prioritize ending sexual violence in the workplace."

The curriculum pilot is part of a larger effort by CAASE to build bridges between the anti-rape and labor rights movements, drawing on the transformative work of each movement to build a stronger, more holistic, and more organized response to workplace sexual violence. The curriculum was a labor of love, produced over the past year by a CAASE-led coalition of worker rights organizers, attorneys, government officials and rape victim advocates. The coalition has met monthly since the fall of 2012, discussing ways to educate workers on sexual violence in the workplace and brainstorming intersections for activism in the labor rights and anti-rape movements. In the next year, CAASE hopes to provide training and education to the rape crisis community on labor rights and activism in Chicago.

CAASE would like to thank the Skadden Foundation for its generous support of this initiative.  It would also like to thank its outstanding coalition partners, including LAF-Chicago's Illinois Migrant Legal Assistance Project, Rape Victim Advocates, Mujeres Latinas en Acción, the Latino Union of Chicago, the Chicago Coalition of Household Workers, Pillars, ARISE-Chicago, ROC-Chicago, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos, USDOL-OSHA, and the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago.

Learn more in CAASE's Know Your Rights brochure on sexual harassment, available here in English and here in Spanish (PDF links).

Friday, August 30, 2013

Meet Our Runners: Ruth Rankin

The Chicago Half Marathon and 5K are quickly approaching. The rest of this week, we’d like to introduce you to three of Race for CAASE team runners and encourage you to give to them and/or to any other members of the team to give them a boost before the race.
Ruth Rankin was introduced to CAASE through our former legal intern Rachel Johnson and her mother, Amy Stearns, who are both also Racing for CASE. Ruth ’s husband also filmed this video of her getting ready to go out on a run. So great!

CAASE: How did you get connected to CAASE?
Ruth Rankin: I’m a friend of Rachel Johnson [former CAASE legal intern] and she’s an absolutely wonderful woman. Through my friendship with her, I learned about CAASE. The work being done is so important. Amy [Rachel’s mom] let a lot of her friends know that the race was coming.
How is your training going?
I’m 63 and doing a couch to 5K program, as in couch potato. I’ve never done anything like this in my life. One of my friends said to me, “I kind of always thought of your form of exercise to turn the pages of a good book.” Everyone supporting me believes in CAASE’s mission and is really happy to support me. I have a feeling this is going to be my debut and sawn song (laughs). But I’m having a good time.
There are some people who are surprised and impressed. They’re all really happy to let me know that I’m pushing the envelope, and they think it’s great.
How are you feeling about being part of the team?
It’s great fun, and it feels fun to be a part of something. When I run with Amy the time goes a lot quicker. It is very exciting to be part of this and to feel like we’re part of something that really matters. And this really, really matters. I honestly didn’t know until Rachel helped me to understand how widespread and horrifying this is.I really am excited for the race and to be with all these people who believe it should be addressed and change. That kind of energy is a big part of my motivation.

Support Ruth by donating to CAASE via her page here, or donate to other runners by visiting the whole list here.  

Many Thanks to Our Generous Sponsors:

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Meet Our Runners: Lisa Belter

Lisa Belter
The Chicago Half Marathon and 5K are quickly approaching. The rest of this week, we’d like to introduce you to Race for CAASE team runners and encourage you to give to them and/or to any other members of the team to give them a boost before the race.

CAASE: Why did you choose to run for CAASE?
Lisa:  I'm moved by the organization's purpose. It is heartbreaking to hear about the injustice that occurs in our society.

CAASE: Have you run a marathon before?
Lisa: I have run 9 marathons before, but due to some back issues, I had to take some time off from running. I thought running a half marathon would be a good way to ease back into marathons, and it's for a great cause!

CAASE: What has been the biggest challenge so far?
Lisa: I think the biggest challenge has been the fundraising. It is great how many people do fundraise for other events, but sometimes, I think people can get overwhelmed by all the donation opportunities.

Ok, internet, let’s give Lisa a boost today! Donate to her page here, and view the full list of runners here.

Many Thanks to Our Generous Sponsors:

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Meet our Runners: Lindsey LaPointe

Lindsey LaPointe
The Chicago Half Marathon and 5K are quickly approaching. The rest of this week, we’d like to introduce you to three of Race for CAASE team runners and encourage you to give to them and/or to any other members of the team to give them a boost before the race. Today’s profile is of Lindsey LaPointe. Lindsey was a CAASE Policy and Advocacy Intern a few years ago and remains committed to ending sexual exploitation:

You were an intern at CAASE a few years ago. How did that experience influence your own desire to help end human trafficking?

My experience interning at CAASE opened my eyes to the many ways necessary to end human trafficking and sexual exploitation.  I came to CAASE for a policy-oriented internship, however since my background was in direct service social work, my understanding at that time of ending trafficking and sexual exploitation was very victim-centered, which is only one part of a much larger puzzle.  At CAASE I learned the necessity and means to combat this issue on other levels such as curbing demand (for commercial sex), community outreach/awareness raising, prevention, changing laws, etc.  The victories and hard work of CAASE and their partners continually inspires my ongoing work on social policy and social justice issues, such as the recent victory to eliminate a felony prostitution charges spearheaded by End Demand Illinois.

Why did you decide to Race for CAASE this year? Are you doing the Half Marathon or the 5k? Are you a longtime runner or a newbie?
I’m running the half marathon and this distance is new to me!  I’ve been a “jogger” for several years, but up until recently 5 miles was my limit.  The opportunity to run for CAASE, set and reach a tough personal goal, and raise awareness about the organization’s work was just the inspiration I needed to sign up.

It’s so generous of you to fundraise for CAASE. Have you received positive feedback and support from family and friends so far?
I have received positive feedback.  People are impressed with the half-marathon commitment and interested in learning about CAASE.  It’s been a great opportunity to share information about trafficking, especially with runners who love hearing about races.

If there was one thing you wanted people to know about your efforts to Race for CAASE, what would it be?
CAASE is a small organization, but so large in terms of the scope and impact of their work.  I have no doubt that if it weren’t for CAASE and End Demand Illinois, prostitution would still be considered a felony offense in Illinois (instead of a misdemeanor) and minor victims of sex trafficking would still be considered juvenile delinquents instead of  individuals in need of services and assistance. The chance to support runners in the race for CAASE is a chance for direct impact on sexual exploitation! All funders and runners should all be proud to contribute in any way they can.

Support Lindsey's efforts by donating on her page here. Or click here to view the full list of runners and donate to any of their pages here. 

Many Thanks to Our Generous Sponsors:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

When Someone Comes to You, What Will Your Reaction Be?

Whether we realize it or not, all of us know people whose lives have been impacted by sexual assault. As many as 1 in 6 women will experience rape in their lifetime, and as few as 16% of sexual assaults are reported to police (see CounterQuo for a full analysis of sexual assault stats). 

The way that we respond when a friend or family member tells us about sexual assault makes all the difference. The campaign Start by Believing offers guidance and advocacy to encourage our culture to stand with survivors of sexual assault and to always let survivors know, “This is not your fault.” Their website is filled with information for allies and law enforcement: http://www.startbybelieving.org/

CAASE’s founder Rachel Durchslag, wrote the following reflection about supporting a friend who was sexually assaulted (TRIGGER WARNING):

When a friend experiences a sexual assault it as if the world turns gray. Sounds become almost muffled, and the heaviness one feels in their heart- crippling. When a friend experiences a sexual assault sadness invades the cells of one’s body, and tears linger constantly behind misting eyes. The friend is overwhelmed with the injustice of it all and left with a revolving door of “whys”- why people harm others for their own sense of power, why sexual assault is still tolerated (and sometimes encouraged), and why perpetrators mostly go free when the victim is left with mountains of emotional trauma. 

It is an unfair world when people rape. It is an unfair world when those we love are hurt. But it is the world in which we live. 

Within this overwhelming darkness still shines a light. It is the light that is the human capacity to heal. It is the light of amazing activists who dedicate their lives to making this world safer for us all. And it is the light of thousands of survivors and allies who turn hate into love, pain into forgiveness, and hurt into healing. 

For more information about CAASE's legal services for survivors of sexual assault, visit http://caase.org/legal-services. For more information about local resources for survivors, visit www.rapevictimadvocates.org. The local Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline number is 1-888-293-2080.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Renee Gets Ready to Race for CAASE

Renee Mehl has served on CAASE’s board of directors since 2009. She is an experienced runner and is co-chairing the Race for CAASE team. Here are some quick thoughts from Renee about running to end sexual exploitation. You can find her fundraising page and make a gift in honor of her race here.

CAASE: This is your second year helping to lead the team. What motivates you in your training?

Renee: I race because the Race for CAASE combines my two interests: charity and running. Joining CAASE has opened my eyes to the consequences of sexual harm and violence in our own backyard. CAASE is making real changes in trafficked persons' lives. I know the money we raise goes toward all of CAASE's initiatives, including policy reform, community outreach, and litigation.

CAASE: Have you run a half marathon before? 

Renee: I became hooked on running after my first half marathon in 2010. Right when I was feeling defeated and began thinking about walking, a stranger said, "You can do this, Renee!" (My name was on my race bib.) I thought to myself, "You can do this!" and started running again.  You truly never run alone when you are running for charity.  You are running for friends, family, donors, CAASE, and, in my case that day, strangers. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

RedEye Covers Sexual Assault in Chicago

Yesterday, RedEye ran a cover story about our community’s response to sexual assault. The reporter touched on issues victims face when they come forward to report to local law enforcement. Every day, our attorneys at the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Assault are working with survivors who are seeking to hold perpetrators of rape accountable. Our legal program—the Sexual Assault Justice Project—offers free legal representation to sexual assault survivors as they navigate the criminal justice system or seek remedies against perpetrators in the civil court. We wanted to weigh in about a few things:  

Most rapes are not reported, and it takes a lot of courage to come forward and report a rape. The giant numeral 3 on the RedEye cover—the number of sexual assaults reported in Chicago on any given day—does not reflect the true reality of sexual assault in Chicago. Only between 16% and 19% of sexual assaults are ever reported to police. The reporter seems intent upon pointing out that some cases don’t move forward because victims “don’t want to be reminded” of the crime, and “a victim decides not to participate in the investigation.” What she doesn’t mention are the specific, horrifying things that often happen to survivors who do come forward.

The truth is that our culture does not believe rape victims, and our criminal justice system too often reflects that—not just here in Chicago but throughout the country. Survivors who do come forward are often doubted, ignored and re-traumatized. (Just read this recent article in The Daily Beast to learn how social media contributes to the problem.) The reporter seems intent on framing these barriers as being all about the victim. Instead, we’d like to talk more about how the system should be reformed. According to Kaethe Morris Hoffer, CAASE’s legal director, “Most of our clients desperately want to support the investigation and prosecution of rape. The flaw is not with survivors’ willingness to cooperate, but with the system’s ability to believe survivors and stop rape.” 

This is about public safety and holding those who commit rape accountable. The reporter leaves out that side of the story—the perpetrators who are getting away with rape. Local law enforcement is making strides in creating a better response to sexual assault—training prosecutors and police about the realities of trauma so they can better work with survivors. But there is much more to be done.

CAASE strongly supports transparency in data. Using data to tell a story is a hot topic in journalism right now and rightly so. The map in RedEye shows that sexual assault is being reported in every corner of our city. Better data collection and transparency are important tools for advocates who are working to identify systemic issues facing survivors of sexual assault. CAASE participates in a sexual assault task force with allies mentioned in the story, and we are thrilled to see a rallying of support from local leaders like Alderman Scott Waguespack.

To learn more about CAASE’s legal work, please visit our website or make a donation here.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Chicagoland Police Used FBI Sex Trafficking Sting to Arrest Adult Women

Yesterday we told you that the FBI conducted a sting to arrest 150 pimps nationwide and rescue more than 100 children from sex trafficking. Today, we have some very bad news.

Two of the children were from Illinois, and one pimp was arrested in our state. Apparently, law enforcement in several cities also used this as an opportunity to arrest and charge adult women in Illinois with prostitution. Locally, Daily Herald reports that at least 14 local women (some as young as 21) in Naperville, Aurora, Elgin, Arlington Heights and Elk Grove were charged with prostitution as part of the sting. There was no mention from the FBI or Daily Herald about any johns (buyers) being arrested.

The FBI’s main message yesterday to the media was clear: children AND adults are being exploited in the sex trade. In a press release, Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division said: “This operation serves as a reminder that these abhorrent crimes can happen anywhere and that the FBI remains committed to stopping this cycle of victimization and holding the criminals who profit from this exploitation accountable.”

It is abhorrent that police used this sting as a reason to arrest women in prostitution.  Research shows that the majority of women in prostitution were recruited as minors, so it’s likely that is the case for some of these women. The difference between being treated as a “child victim” and a criminal appears to be merely a difference of three or four years of age. If the intention of the FBI was to take down pimps and traffickers and stop exploitation, why did Chicagoland police feel empowered to arrest prostituted adults? Did local police even screen these adults for human trafficking?

Update 8/2/2013:  In a quick scan of arrest info released by law enforcement in three cities, 98 of the 138 arrests were of prostituted people. In Las Vegas, media reported that 41 people in prostitution were arrested there.

We must demand more from law enforcement. Over and over again, we see police blotters where women are arrested and johns and pimps go unmentioned. This is another glaring example of police using an easy, ingrained, and highly ineffective practice: arresting and re-arresting people in prostitution. People who buy sex in the suburbs will take great comfort in the fact that these women were arrested and that buyers were ignored. It sends a message to buyers that they are safe, immune from prosecution, and can continue doing what they do—buying sex in our community and creating the demand for more people in prostitution.

During the FBI press conference, Hosko said, “We do care, and our goal is to get these young girls into some form of treatment and help them reshape their lives and reclaim their innocence to the extent they can.” CAASE advocates that services and support should extend to anyone who has been exploited in the sex trade, including adults. It’s time for police to stop punishing the wrong people, start addressing demand, and recognize that sex traffickers also target and exploit adults.

Sign up for our action alerts here.

Monday, July 29, 2013

FBI Sting and the Local Issue of Sex Trafficking

Today the FBI announced that more than 150 arrests had been made in stings targeting the sex trafficking of children throughout the United States. Two of the victims were from Chicagoland. We are so glad to see how much media attention is being paid to this today. Sadly there are many, many more minors and adults being exploited in the sex trade in Illinois.

Just this weekend, the Chicago Sun-Times ran an op-ed from Aldermen Bob Fioretti and Toni Foulkes proposing a zero-tolerance policy for sex trafficking in our city. CAASE has been partnering with Fioretti and Foulkes to address the City of Chicago’s response to sex trafficking. They recently called a City Council hearing on human trafficking, during which they heard more about local law enforcement efforts:

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez testified that her office has brought more than 77 charges against local sex traffickers. These are local people who have been forcing local women and girls into the sex trade. Over and over, investigations are showing that most people in Chicago’s sex trade are not there by choice, but because someone has forced or coerced them into it. That, by definition, is sex trafficking.
By federal definition, all minors in the sex trade are victims of trafficking. That is also the case in Illinois (though it's not so in every state). There are many people in our community who are willing to buy sex from minors, and this demand causes the sex trade to thrive. Aldermen Fioretti and Foulkes understand the intrinsic connection. They wrote:

Maybe you think that prostitution can’t be stopped. The truth is that the people who are fueling all of this harm are going unpunished in our city. In 2011, there were only 41 charges made against pimps, buyers or traffickers in Chicago, in comparison to the more than 2,300 prostitution-related charges. The message to buyers needs to be clear: We won’t tolerate your behavior in our city.

We applaud Aldermen Fioretti and Foulkes for their leadership on this important issue and look forward to working with them to realize their vision of zero-tolerance for sex trafficking. 

Our End Demand Illinois campaign is working to transform our state's response to prostitution and sex trafficking. We passed the Illinois Safe Children Act in 2010, which makes all minors in our state immune from prosecution for prostitution. To learn more about our campaign, visit www.enddemandillinois.org

Monday, July 22, 2013

Sara Elizabeth Dill is Racing for CAASE

Sara Elizabeth Dill is a founding partner in the Chicago and Miami offices of the Law Offices of Sara Elizabeth Dill. Her practice focuses on immigration and criminal defense domestically and internationally. Sara also has an extensive pro bono practice, representing victims of human trafficking and domestic violence, as well as successfully litigating asylum cases for refugees from Rwanda, Sudan, Haiti, and Colombia. Sara has joined the Race for CAASE team and will be running the Chicago Half Marathon in September. She took a few moments to chat with us about her work in the anti-trafficking movement and to talk about why she’s Racing for CAASE.

CAASE: How have you seen the movement to end human trafficking evolving in the past few years, and when did you first hear about CAASE’s work?

Sara Elizabeth Dill:
I have to say that human trafficking efforts have grown exponentially over the last decade. It must have been maybe two years ago and that there was another group I was working with and they were talking about CAASE. Any time you hear about an organization that is dealing with human trafficking on a local level, you have to take note. We hear so much about international trafficking, and when I learned that CAASE is doing something locally, I had to get involved.

Why do you believe that ending the demand for prostitution so crucial?

I think ending demand is the only way that we are effectively going to put a stop to human trafficking. We can dismantle the trafficking rings, increase penalties to the traffickers, and all of that is amazing. But unless we really teach our boys and men and tell them, “This isn’t appropriate. This isn’t accepted by society,” and enforce it with harsh penalties, it won’t end. We need to educate them about who these women are. That’s the only way that we will be able to put a stop to the demand for these women, which will then take away the profit and the traffickers, and it will eliminate it. I think the programs that CAASE is doing are fantastic. We’ve seen in other countries the benefits of when they started arresting the johns and putting very stiff criminal penalties on demand, and the trafficking of women decreased exponentially—to the point where it’s almost nonexistent.

What made you want to support CAASE and join the Race for CAASE Team? Have you run a half marathon before?

SEDill: I have. I’ve run half marathons and I’ve run full marathons. I wanted to get another race in this year, and when I saw on twitter that you guys were sponsoring a team for this I thought “That’s perfect!”

CAASE: You’re really active on Twitter, and your practice has a great blog. We saw the other day that you were training in this heat.

SEDill: Yes, you have to keep training! The way I see it - any pain or struggle I feel while running is nothing compared to what victims of human trafficking endure.

Many thanks to Sara for being interviewed and for joining the Race for CAASE team. If you’d like to support Sara’s fundraising efforts, please visit her profile here and make a donation!

This interview was written/condensed by CAASE's Communications Intern, Clara Pluton.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

AP calls Sex Trafficking of a Child a "Career"

Myths about prostitution run deep in our culture. Some people believe it’s a victimless crime, or that all women in prostitution have chosen to be there. Often, the media contributes to these myths by using derogatory and shaming language. We thought, however, that it was now obvious to all that any children in prostitution should be considered victims of crime, and that adults are exploiting them in a heinous way. Apparently, the Associated Press isn’t there yet. Yesterday, reporter Ramit Plushnick-Masti filed a story about Houston’s program to “rehabilitate”people in prostitution. Here’s the intro paragraph:

Tricia Chambers began her life heavily dependent on heroin and methadone. From there, she was peddled into child pornography, and by 9 she had a full-fledged career in prostitution, alongside her mother.

A nine-year-old girl who is being sex trafficked by her mother does not have a career. Instead, adults are sexual exploiting and assaulting her. Men were buying sex from a 9-year-old girl. Nothing about that says “work” or “career” or job.

This is a giant failure by the Associated Press and Plushnick-Masti to recognize that Tricia Chambers is a survivor of childhood sexual assault. Instead, they continue to stigmatize her and others who are in a program trying to exit prostitution, by calling them “hookers” and “streetwalkers.” This is incredibly offensive and harmful, and reinforces the cultural norm that people in prostitution are to blame, when many are actually crime victims.

All of this is made even more painful because the story that Plushnick-Masti is covering needs to be told. She writes about the shift in law enforcement's response to prostitution, and the recognition that minors in the sex trade are crime victims. It's terrible that the language she chose to use doesn't reflect the story she's telling.

We need to take action. Tweet @RamitMastiAP and @AP and tell them they got it wrong. A child in prostitution is a victim of a heinous crime. They must do better in deepening reporters’ understanding of these issues and work to not re-victimize survivors of sexual assault and trafficking. The must edit this story and show that they will do more to educate reporters about the realities of sex trafficking. 

Here are some sample tweets:

Tell @AP and @RamitMastiAP a 9-year-old cannot have a “career” in prostitution. Language matters! Pls RT http://ow.ly/mrqLh

.@AP @RamitMastiAP call sex trafficking of children what it is—exploitation by adults, not a 9-year-old’s career. http://ow.ly/mrqLh

You can also write on the Associated Press’s Texas Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AssociatedPressTexas?fref=ts  

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Reflections on Roadkill, an Experiential Play about Sex Trafficking

Rachel Durchslag, CAASE’s founder and executive director, attended the production of "Roadkill" at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. The experiential play tells the story of a young woman trafficked in Chicago. Here are some of Rachel’s thoughts about the play. 

There is a nervous energy as we board the bus outside of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.  Approximately 20 people have signed up for an experiential theatrical performance that will take them away from Navy Pier and into a Chicago neighborhood for a play that deals with an issue many have yet to learn about—sex trafficking.

We drive west on Chicago Avenue out of downtown toward Wicker Park. Eventually the bus slows downs and picks up two actors playing a young girl and a woman only a few years older.  The girl tells the passengers she is from Nigeria and is moving to Chicago for a better life.  The woman who is her travel companion is her “auntie” whom she will live with and who will help her go to school and find work.  The young actor is wide-eyed and consistently comments on all the wonderful things she is viewing on the ride.  Her excitement and joyousness are infectious and soon everyone on the bus is smiling and laughing with her.  For a moment, they forget that they have purchased tickets to a play where they are going to watch the fate of this young girl as she becomes a victim of sex trafficking.

Trafficking thrives by being a hidden phenomenon.  As long as victims remain behind closed doors, away from the eyes of law enforcement, traffickers can continue to exploit them for their own economic benefit.  This is the brilliance of “Roadkill”- it brings the audience into the hidden space of an apartment where trafficked victims are held against their will.  Because audience members are surrounded by the play, the subject comes alive in an even more impactful way.  We see Mary as she experiences rape in front of us.  We feel her captivity as we sit with her in the room that is both where she sleeps and where she endures countless sexual assaults.  We long for her freedom as she lies in her bed looking up at a ceiling where johns’ faces are projected and quotes from johns’ boards are read.

“Roadkill” highlights the role of demand by showing faces of johns and bringing their real quotes into the story.  It shows how trafficked victims can become traffickers.  And it clearly demonstrates that sex trafficking can look different from an outside perspective.  This play serves as a tribute to the power of theater to connect theater-goers deeply with social justice issues.