Marelyn Garcia’s boyfriend promised he’d take care of her. He said he would take her off the streets, support her heroin addiction and show her what real love was. Then after a few months of financial hardship, he told her one more thing: she needed to sleep with his friend for money.
Garcia had been a victim of sexual abuse when she was 7 years old and again between the ages of 11 and 14. “So that opened the door to promiscuity,” she explained. “When I got into human trafficking it wasn’t hard for me to do because that was already robbed from me.”
Garcia had been a prostitute for 13 years before she went to the Dream Center, a collaboration of ministries fighting against injustice, poverty and oppression in Chicago.
“In 2006, I came to the Dream Center very broken, very confused, didn’t know what life was all about,” she said.
At the time of her entry into the program, Garcia had been a victim of both emotional and mental abuse. Cathy Zimmerman,a mental health researcher with the Gender Violence and Health Centre of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, reported that it is very common for victims to suffer from high levels of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Her 2006 study showed that 75 percent of trafficked women had severe recurring thoughts and memories of terrifying events, 67 percent had trouble sleeping and 65 percent felt like they didn’t had a future.
“There is little doubt that these experiences affect women for the rest of their lives,” Zimmerman said. She references the way one victim explained her mental state: “‘it feels as if they have stolen my smile and I will never get it back.’”
It is estimated that 16,000 – 25,000 women and girls are involved in the commercial sex trade in Chicago, according to a Preliminary Prevalence Report at the Center of Impact Research. Many of these victims grew up in drug and alcohol prevalent environments, had been victims of domestic or sexual violence and had one or more parents incarcerated. These women are often recruited as a result of their vulnerability.
However, women such as Garcia show that there is hope for those who feel stuck in these environments. The Dream Center of Chicago offers a two-year program that gets women off the streets, offers classes in anger management and domestic violence prevention, helps them find jobs and apartments, and assists them with reconnecting with their families. It is one of the many organizations in Chicago that offer assistance to human trafficking victims.
“We walk with them literally from a street corner until they go into their first apartments,” said Associate Pastor Trishia Kholodenko. She also leads a group of members who go into bars, massage parlors and strip clubs in order to alert human trafficking victims of their options.
“I hear the statistics,” Garcia said, now as the transitional living coordinator at the Dream Center. “But I’m living witness that because of God’s grace, because of people reaching out, because of people coming to seminars, and people getting training on this issue and having passion about it, I’m living proof that it does matter.”\

http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=214225

Sex trafficking is tragic because it is imprisonment and oppression that devastates its victims. Mostly young women and children, the victims are subject to gross human rights violations, including rape, torture, forced abortions, starvation, and threats of torture or murder. Many of these victims have been imported from poverty conditions in foreign countries, duped with promises of good jobs in the U.S. Others were purchased like possessions or kidnapped outright. And some are American runaways whose lives have hit bottom.
The numbers of victims involved are staggering. The United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking estimates that it is a $16 billion business in the U.S. In addition, the U.S. State Department reports that 14,500 to 18,000 victims are trafficked into this country annually for prostitution, forced labor or other forms of exploitation. The population of victims in this hidden illegal subculture is huge, but unverifiable. Nevertheless, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center reports that it responded to more than 19,400 phone calls on its hotline in 2011.
http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-02-03/news/ct-oped-0203-trafficking-20120203_1_human-trafficking-trafficking-victims-super-bowl-xlvi

Extent of Human Trafficking in the U.S.
• The U.S.A. is the second highest destination in the world for trafficked women (NOW-NYC, 2007). • $250,000: The amount of profit that can be made from one trafficked woman in the U.S.A (Sweeney, 2005).
• 600,000-800,000: The number of people trafficked across international borders each year, according to the State Department (U.S. DOS, 2008). • 14,500-17,500: A very conservative number of people who are trafficked into the United States each year (U.S. DOS, 2008).
• Between January 2007 and September 2008, 1,229 incidents of human trafficking, with 1,442 victims, were reported to the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, 83 percent of the reported incidents involved sex trafficking, and 12 percent involved labor trafficking (Kyckelhahn, Beck & Cohen, 2009).
• 32 percent of the 1,442 victims in the 1,229 trafficking incidents reported were children.
• More than 50 percent of all victims in the human trafficking incidents were U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens accounted for 63 percent of sex trafficking victims. • U.S. Citizens accounted for 66 percent of suspected traffickers in the trafficking cases reported.
• The Salvation Army estimates that up to 150,000 foreign victims of slavery are in the United States from 49 countries in the Arab world, Africa, Southeast Asia, and nations formerly part of the Soviet Union, and that about 325,000 children are commercially sexually exploited in the USA annually (Frederick, 2007).
• Of the foreign victims trafficked into the U.S., approximately 50 % are under the age of 18 years, and 80% are female (U.S.DOJ, 2003).
Extent of Human Trafficking in Illinois
• February 7, 2012, Cook County Sheriff announced the results of the second “National Day of John Arrests” that covered a 10 day period and involved 20 U.S. law enforcement agencies in 8 states. A total of 314 sex buyers also known as “Johns” were arrested and charged including 46 in Chicago and 6 in Aurora, Illinois (Cook County Sheriff, n.d.).
• January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011, number of cases that referenced potential trafficking situations in Illinois to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC): 93, including 38 cases with a high level of critical information and key indicators relevant to identifying a human trafficking situation. The 38 confirmed cases include 30 cases of sex trafficking, 7 cases of labor trafficking, and one unspecified case. Twenty-five of the 38 cases were in Chicago. (Polaris Project, n.d.).
• January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010, number of calls to the NHTRC that referenced potential trafficking situations in Illinois: 411 (Polaris Project, n.d.). • On February 23, 2009, FBI agents and police arrested 44 Chicago- area adults as part of a nationwide crackdown on child prostitution (NBC Chicago).
• In a 2003 article, the New York Times labeled Chicago as a national hub for human trafficking (Frederick, 2007).
http://www.uic.edu/jaddams/college/research_public_service/files/TraffickingInPersonsInIllinois_FactSheet09202010.pdf
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