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Efforts to Stop Those Who Fuel the Sex Trade in Illinois

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 Mary Kuhlman, Assistant Managing Editor

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Monday, January 13, 2014   

CHICAGO - In Illinois, thousands of girls and women, some as young as 12, are the victims of sex trafficking, and efforts are underway to stop those who fuel the sex trade. According to Lynne Johnson, policy and advocacy director at the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, or "CASE," sex trafficking is a pervasive problem in the state, and too often the victims are the ones being punished. She said traffickers typically recruit people who are vulnerable, and then use coercion and threats to keep them trapped.

Such criminals will "force them to engage in prostitution on the streets, or in indoor venues like massage parlors or nail salons, and will tell them that they'll suffer a lot of consequences if they don't participate in the activity that the pimp or trafficker wants them to do," she said.

Johnson said a wide range of Illinois groups is working on this issue and helping victims through direct services, case management and housing. She said they are also educating the community, and urging law enforcement to focus its efforts on the traffickers, not the victims.

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

CASE is part of a broader coalition, "End Demand Illinois," which has helped to pass four laws in four years that address human trafficking. Johnson said future work will focus on raising more money for specialized services.

"We need to start to develop new funding streams so that we can create new services all around the state, for a very diverse group of people who've been impacted by sex trafficking."

The U.S. Justice Department estimates the sex trafficking industry brings in $9.5 billion a year, and Johnson said it's the victims who pay the price.

"It's the pimps and the traffickers that are profiting from the commercial sex trade, and the people who are being prostituted are the ones who are suffering the hardest consequences," she declared.

Johnson said public awareness is crucial and advises anyone who suspects they know a victim to call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline, at 888-373-7888. According to CASE, Illinois has generated the fifth-highest number of calls to the hotline since 2007.



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