Sex trafficking is a $35 billion industry, according to Selah Freedom, a national education and training organization focused on teen prevention, outreach, and safe housing in the Midwest and Southeast. While it is impossible to nail down a firm number of those affected due to the amount of unreported cases, the Polaris Project estimates that the total number of victims in the United States is in the hundreds of thousands. The average age of entry into sex trafficking is 12 to 14 years old.
“Chicago is in the top five cities in the nation for sex trafficking. Milwaukee, Wisconsin has been deemed the ‘Harvard’ of pimp school.” This fact was posted by Selah Freedom, one of the four partners that the Junior League of Chicago’s Freeing Individuals from Human Trafficking Committee, or FIHT, works with to combat the issue. FIHT’s other partners are Traffick Free, Salt & Light and Stop-It.
The FIHT committee leads for-women-only training events that teach useful, real-world skills like cooking, budgeting, etc. FIHT works with its partners to provide a safe and comfortable space for women looking to escape from sex trafficking situations. FIHT also helps run the local Chicago human trafficking hotline.
“So many people don’t fully understand what human trafficking entails, or its scope,” said Amanda Stasinski, a FIHT committee member. “The reality is that human trafficking happens every day and the majority of trafficking victims, particularly sex trafficking victims, are American citizens and are often children.”
The FIHT committee was created just two years ago has experienced great growth in that short time. Committee leaders are hoping to educate JLCers and the larger community about the reality of trafficking while also trying to dispel common misconceptions about those victimized by the crime. The FIHT partner network holds various events and campaigns to educate and foster involvement in the community and FIHT has a number of opportunities within the League for members. JLCers can attend DIAD’s, JLCU’s, movie screenings, and other events throughout the year to educate themselves on the issue and get directly involved. A JLCU is currently being planned for this Spring that will feature two sex trafficking survivors who will be share their stories with the League.
By Sierra Powel-Smith, 2017-18 Topics & Trends staff member