EDI Helps Sex Trade Survivors

11/10/2016, 4:58 a.m. | Updated on 11/10/2016, 4:58 a.m.
Prostitution is a crippling phenomenon and social problem that impacts women, men and children around the world. According to Leena ...
Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE) panelists at the 2015 Annual Cook County Human Trafficking Conference. (Pictured from left: Survivor, Dr. Joel Filmore who spoke on Justice for Victims of Sex Trafficking Crimes Acts; Survivor leader and co-founder of the Dreamcatcher Foundation, Brenda Myers-Powell.) Photo Courtesy: Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation

EDI Helps Sex Trade Survivors

By Safiyyah P. Muhammad

Prostitution is a crippling phenomenon and social problem that impacts women, men and children around the world.

According to Leena Saleh, Communications Manager for Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, (CAASE), the federal definition of human trafficking is the use of force fraud or coercion to make someone sell sexual services.

In Chicago, prostitution has caused the arrest of a growing number of women and girls, especially women of color. Saleh said, “More than 16,000 women and girls are impacted by the commercial sex trade on any given day in Chicago.

"Women of color bear the brunt of prostitution-related arrests in Chicago and beyond while pimps and johns are

rarely arrested or charged. We advocate for an end to

the arrest and re-arrest of prostituted women.”

Saleh added young girls who are having problems in their families, and feel they don’t have many options for survival, might turn to prostitution as a solution.

"A 2008 Chicago study of 100 women up to age 25 found their average age of entry into prostitution was 16. Girls this young are often exchanging sex for clothes, shelter, or food in order to survive. Many have run away from dysfunctional homes and are often in foster care. Pimps and traffickers look for people to recruit into the sex trade who have few, if any, meaningful choices in life,” Saleh said.

According to Saleh, the sex trade is a multi-billion dollar industry that includes brothel and strip club owners, traffickers, pimps, and websites that facilitate sex trafficking. Saleh also stated that the pornography industry overlaps with the commercial sex trade and many survivors have shared stories of abuse and exploitation.

Saleh further explained that women, who are being prostituted, often struggle with problems of homelessness and emotional issues. She said, “The overwhelming majority of women involved in street prostitution live in poverty. They are frequently homeless, and have substance abuse problems.

Prostituted women experience high rates of posttraumatic

stress similar to that of combat war veterans. Most women involved in prostitution have experienced physical and emotional abuse, theft and sexual assault. Some women are kidnapped or murdered.

"Most women involved in prostitution do not believe they will be treated fairly by our court system and do not report the crimes against them.

Survivors of prostitution and trafficking say that the violence they experienced was ‘normal.’”

According to CAASE’s website, the organization has implemented the End Demand Illinois (EDI).

Saleh said, “Our End Demand Illinois campaign is working to end the routine arrest and re-arrest of women and girls in prostitution and instead proposes a statewide system of supportive services for survivors of the sex trade.” Saleh stated that from the state level, the organization has passed 6 laws in 6 years including: 2015 - Creating an Affirmative Defense for Survivors The Public Act 099-0190 (formerly SB 1588) creates an affirmative defense for people charged with

prostitution, allowing them to prove that they engaged in prostitution as a result of human trafficking as defined by state law.

2014 - Creating new funding streams for

specialized services PA 98-1013 (formerly SB 3558)

especially for survivors of human trafficking and


2013 - Eliminating Felony Prostitution in Illinois

(PA 98-0538).

2012 - Reforming Illinois' Human Trafficking

Code PA 97-0897 (formerly H2 5278) expands

the scope of the state involuntary servitude law by

including additional means by which a trafficker can

obtain or maintain a victim.

2011 - Justice for Victims of Sex Trafficking

The Justice for Victims of Sex Trafficking Crimes

Act enables victims of sex trafficking to clear their

records of prostitution convictions. The motion would

apply to survivors who are now seeking services or have

escaped the trafficking.

2010 - Illinois Safe Children Act is the first law

in the nation to make minors under 18 immune from

prosecution for prostitution.

Saleh stated that if the public suspects sex trafficking, they should call the National Human Trafficking Resource Hotline where they will get a specialized response at: 1 (888) 373-7888.