A Summer Recap of our Anti-Trafficking Efforts

Sep 5, 2019 | by Summar Ghias

We know you are probably thinking the same thing: how is it fall already?

The summer months flew by and we can hardly believe it is September. We've been busy, which is why we thought it about time to give you a quick recap of everything we've accomplished over the last several months!

STOP-IT kicked off the summer by hosting a series of survivor focus groups in partnership with our task force on May 31 and June 1 that gleaned insights from people with lived experiences about appropriate interventions and outreach in hotel and transit center settings. We hope to take this feedback back to private companies so they can think critically about effective strategies to address human trafficking. Not long thereafter, in August of this year, the Illinois governor signed a new law called the Lodging Establishment Human Trafficking Recognition Training Act that now mandates hotels in Illinois to train employees in the recognition of human trafficking. It's perfect timing for us to bring these survivor insights to hotels who are now tasked with training their properties. We've also seen a variety of national campaigns launch in this same time period. For instance, the No Room for Trafficking campaign, spearheaded by the American Hotel and Lodging Association, provides a toolkit for hotels and a strategy for establishing company policy. We hope these new efforts influence the work hotels do to up the ante on their anti-trafficking response and to firm up their supply chain transparency. 

In June, our task force was represented at the International Association of Chiefs of Police's kickoff meeting for BJA task forces from around the country. We shared more about our structure, task force coordination, challenges, and lessons learned both in person and on an online webinar. It is this kind of sharing that we hope can foster critical thinking around efforts to address trafficking, what works, what doesn't, and, ultimately, help us think about how we can do things better.

In late June, our program manager spoke to NPR's Worldview to discuss the recently released Trafficking in Persons report and local efforts to address human trafficking. Radio segments like this are helpful in bringing awareness about human trafficking to local communities on a large scale. 

Over the summer, our program staff continued to conduct outreach to potential survivors in a variety of settings, including at the Chicago Prostitution and Trafficking Intervention Court (CPTIC), at Unhooked classes conducted by Footprints for people who go through the court and are then enrolled in classes, and at concerted outreach events for specific communities, such as at Indo American center to reach the South Asian community and at Chicago Public Schools resource fairs for Students in Temporary Living Situations. 

Our trainings reached a wide variety of disciplines, including staff at Haymarket, domestic violence providers from around the state through the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence's advanced human trafficking conference, Hilton front and back of the house staff, and shelter staff at Sarah's Circle and WINGS. We also worked with our Salvation Army corps to host community trainings that focus on coalition building and effective multidisciplinary responses in areas outside of Cook County. Finally, we hosted a group of about 30 providers at our task force's annual two-day-long Coordinated Service Referral Network training, which equips direct service providers with a foundational understanding of human trafficking and the tools to provide trauma-informed care to survivors within their own places of work. 

Our biggest event of the year drew crowds of over 330 attendees on August 7 - 9, 2019. The 9th Annual Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force Conference brought in 50+ speakers from around the country with a diverse array of expertise to enhance our ability to think about trauma-informed strategies to addressing human trafficking. This included national technical assistance providers in the arenas of trauma-informed court settings, housing, and labor trafficking. We heard from survivor advocates about the importance of survivor informed practices and about the danger of sensationalized tropes of human trafficking. Feedback from the conference has been largely positive; of those that responded in overall evaluations, 95 percent felt that the information shared over the three days will be useful to them in their work. 

Last week, program staff participated in Labor Rights Week with workers rights centers, consulates, and legal providers. Program staff conducted awareness activities at the Mexican, Honduran and Guatemalan consulates, providing basic know your rights information and defining situations of exploitation, while explaining more about local resources to those who may have been or are currently in situations of exploitation or trafficking. 

What's next?

Our fall is already jam packed - we have an upcoming Volunteer Training on September 14th and 21st for interested volunteers who would like to provide direct support on our hotline or at our drop-in and an upcoming Fall Distribution Day on September 17 and 18 to get labor trafficking materials to workers rights centers. Looking to help? Register at the above links ASAP! 

 


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