Week 2: 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 week two posts on Facebook and Instagram. Raise awareness with us with the hashtag #humansagainsttrafficking! 

“Survivors often have no way out because they are manipulated into ‘the life’ with gifts and love and maybe even shelter and money in the beginning. And then they are stuck with no way out when they realize what they’re a part of. ” – Matt, Youth Counselor

THE FACTS: In situations of sex trafficking, the grooming process can often look and seem like an intimate partner relationship. In fact, psychological coercion on the part of the trafficker can stem from that initial feeling of love and attention they bestow on the people they victimize. Survivors often feel compelled to stay in the situation because of the attachment they have to the trafficker and the co-opted new family structure of which they are now a part. Trauma bonds can keep people in these types of situations even when things get violent – and often there are periods of good times intermixed with the bad in order to keep survivors under a trafficker’s control. 

“I think human trafficking is kidnapping children and selling them. That’s all I can think of when someone says human trafficking. As women, we should be aware of what’s going on around us because it could happen to us. Being in a barber shop brings in all sorts of people so now that I know that this is an issue here, I will be looking out for signs.” – Cacharelle and Karen, Barbershop Front Desk.

THE FACTS: Human trafficking can and does happen to children, but not in the way many people might think. The majority of cases of sex trafficking within STOP-IT’s caseloads have involved intimate partner relationships that began with attention and affection, only to later involve grooming into the commercial sex trade. They are hardly ever situations of kidnapping, chains, or extreme physical force, though violence may become a product of the victimization later. Identification can take place in a variety of venues, including barbershops. But, in addition to identifying customers who may be being victimized, there is also an opportunity to identify employees who might be forced to work in these settings in situations of labor trafficking. There have been cases of labor trafficking inside hair braiding salons, nail salons, and massage parlors across the country.

“There was one time that we had a young girl come into the store. She had asked a man to use his cell phone to call home but his phone died, so they came into our store to charge it. The young girl was saying how she was from Uganda and was taken away against her will. She was living with some guy in an apartment and she was able to escape. We ended up calling the police and about six officers showed up. I’m not sure what happened after that.” -Syed, T-Mobile Store Manager.

THE FACTS: Human trafficking within the United States affects victims who are U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, visa holders, and undocumented workers. There are federal, state and municipal law enforcement teams in this area specifically dedicated to addressing crimes against children, human trafficking and violence against women. As part of our local task force work, STOP-IT often collaborates with these entities to ensure that survivors receive the support they need upon leaving a trafficking situation.

“A female patient from another country who had just arrived in Chicago came into the emergency room with an injury. She was brought in by a man who was listed as her emergency contact. As he was leaving her in the emergency department, he turned back to the nurse and asked, “can you give me her name?” This was a red flag that something was amiss. The patient was admitted to an in-patient unit and spent several days with us.” – ED staff at Swedish Covenant Hospital

THE FACTS: Hospital ED staff can be critical first responders. In one study by the Family Violence Prevention Fund from 2005, twenty-eight percent of study participants had seen a medical professional at least once during their captivity. Of this 28%, none were identified by providers and all returned to their trafficking situation. In a 2014 study analyzing the health consequences of sex trafficking, 87.8% of survivors had contact with healthcare, including 63% in a hospital or ER.

Swedish Covenant Hospital has been proactive in ensuring that there is a human trafficking response by working with the Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force to develop an internal human trafficking protocol. Task force co-leaders (STOP-IT and CCSAO) have trained over 100 staff members at Swedish Covenant about human trafficking and continue to work in partnership with the hospital. Through this work, Swedish Covenant has led the charge and set an example for area hospitals on how to enhance the overall response to human trafficking in the hospital setting.

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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