Week 1: Humans Against Trafficking Campaign

We canvassed the Chicagoland area to find out just what the public knows about human trafficking. Here’s a recap of our posts this week on Facebook and Instagram. Raise awareness with us with the hashtag #humansagainsttrafficking! 

“My mom and my younger sister moved to Michigan last summer. My sister is 14 and she’s so different from me. I was a latchkey kid; we lived here and my mom worked all the time. I had to mature a lot faster than other kids because it was just my mom and I. When my sister was growing up, we moved to the country. So she’s a lot freer than I am. She loves to wander, my little explorer. Since they’ve moved, I’m constantly worrying about her. Michigan is like number two in the country for human trafficking. Can you believe that? I always think what if she decides to go explore some cool new spot and something happens to her?” – Ashley, Financial Assistant

THE FACTS: Human trafficking has been reported in all 50 states, including Michigan and Illinois. Since 2007, 29,868 cases have been identified through Polaris’ National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline. In 2016 so far, both Michigan and Illinois are in the top 10 of states with the highest number of cases reported. The unfortunate reality: human trafficking can and does take place here.

“I have traveled with my family all my life and have been able to see the most beautiful things and some of the scariest things in the world. Human trafficking is not just in other countries. Girls go missing, boys go missing. I feel like these become the “lost people”, so to speak, in our world. It’s very sad.”

Do you think human trafficking happens in your community? “Maybe not in my immediate community. Maybe, is the key word. I honestly do not know. I really hope not. I live in a suburb so I’m not sure how prominent it is here.” – Kelly, Retail

THE FACTS: According to local law enforcement partners, about half of the cases identified in the past several years have taken place outside of Chicago. STOP-IT has had survivors participate in our program who were from affluent suburbs outside of the city. Though the general public still views human trafficking as primarily a “big city” issue, it also impacts rural towns, agricultural communities, and yes, even the suburbs.

“I don’t know much about human trafficking – but it seems to be a bigger issue than most people are aware of. I know that baseball player Adam LaRoche has gone undercover to try and help before. And maybe Ashton Kutcher too? When it comes to coffee, we serve Intelligentsia over here and it is direct trade – which means direct transactions with a farmer, as opposed to free trade. Free trade sounds good on paper but there is actually the opportunity to manipulate workers more. So I think direct trade is a good thing.” – Scott, Barista.

THE FACTS: What does coffee have to do with human trafficking? The food and beverage industry is an at-risk sector. Across the world, forced labor occurs both in the production of raw materials and during the food processing stages of food and beverage companies’ supply chains. Coffee is no exception. Analyzing your own consumer footprint can be a key first step to being a conscientious consumer.

“To us it means trapped human beings. I always think of women, I’m not sure why. Or a problem that really impacts young girls. Children are easier to target and women always have it harder. Basically, it is when someone is forced to do things they don’t want to do like sexual favors or other stuff. So it feels like slavery, since there isn’t freedom involved. I recently read an article about massage parlors in Florida where it was being covered up. I think raising awareness is the most important thing to do – because you can’t advocate for something if you don’t know what it is. More people need to know.” – Maria and Fatima, students from St. Louis.

THE FACTS: Women and girls can be vulnerable and at risk, but there are also boys and men who have been exploited and victimized. According to the ILO, there are almost 21 million people worldwide who are victims of forced labor or commercial sex – 11.4 million women and girls and 9.5 million men and boys. In the US, women and girls do make up the majority of human trafficking cases reported to the national hotline and youth with a lack of familial support can be particularly at risk. However, it is important to acknowledge that this is an underreported crime. As a community we have yet to perfect our methods of identification, especially in nuanced situations that don’t reflect the common narrative portrayed in the media.

Raise awareness with us by sharing our blog posts and photos on Facebook and Instagram (@sastopit) with the hashtag #humansagainsttrafficking!

Better yet, take what you’ve learned and invest it in programming for survivors.
STOP-IT has provided comprehensive, trauma-informed case management services to over 200 survivors of sex and labor trafficking over the years. We also operate a biweekly drop-in space for female identified youth who may have had to trade sex to survive, and a 24-hour hotline to provide ongoing crisis response. Help us continue to serve those exploited and victimized in situations of sex and labor trafficking by donating here.

If you’d rather donate to a survivor directly, participate in our annual STOP-IT Holiday Giving Tree. More details can be found here. 

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