Humans of The Anti-Trafficking Movement - Part 1
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month; an opportunity to educate the community about human trafficking and empower them to take action to help survivors and work to eradicate the scourge of modern-day slavery.
The #HumansofTheAntiTraffickingMovement campaign highlights individuals throughout the Chicagoland area and their direct or indirect experience with human trafficking. We will share these stories and facts with you throughout the month. You can follow #HumansofTheAntiTraffickingMovement on the STOP-IT Facebook page and on The Salvation Army Metro Division's Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn channels.
The Social Worker
“I probably first became aware of human trafficking when I was in graduate school. Later, when working at a residential facility for unaccompanied minors, I worked with a number of youth from different countries who have experienced trafficking. There are a lot of reasons why people are at risk. Maybe it is their age, or if they are documented, their socioeconomic background. Trafficking doesn’t just hit one group. The people that I work with now have mental health issues, which might also be a risk factor for human trafficking.” – Lorena, Social Worker, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago
Human trafficking impacts people with a variety of backgrounds and experiences – those who are documented, undocumented and U.S. born. Risk factors for trafficking include mental health, socioeconomic status, homelessness, estrangement from support systems and family, gender identity, sexual orientation and immigration status. Individuals facing more of these issues are more vulnerable to trafficking.
Healthcare systems like Rush University Medical Center are often a critical place for intervention. In a 2017 Polaris survey of 127 survivors, 69 percent of respondents reported having had access to health services at some time during the exploitation. Eighty-five percent of those said they had received treatment for an illness or injury directly related to their work or exploitation. However, only six percent of healthcare workers report treating a victim of human trafficking at some point in their career. It is for this very reason the hospital social workers should be equipped to build trust, appropriately ask questions, create a safety plan and discern whether someone might be in need of resources.
The Hair Salon Worker
“I did hear of a situation from a friend of a friend on Facebook. She was from Ghana and needed a job. There was an office that she went to and the people said they could help her find a job. They said that there were jobs for babysitters in Morocco. They told her how much they would pay. When she got to Morocco, the people that she was working for took her passport and wouldn’t let her go outside for five months. She worked at one house and then they moved her to another place. When the man went away for two weeks, the old woman she was caring for told her she could call her family, who told her ‘Run away!’ She felt bad that she was leaving the old woman, but she told someone and left.” – Junie, Hair Braiding Salon, Chicago
Human trafficking can happen in private homes, and often nannies, caretakers and domestic servants around the world are affected. It also happens here in the United States. Labor trafficking victims in domestic work commonly work 12-18 hours a day (and some are on call 24 hours a day) for little or no pay. National Human Trafficking Hotline data reflects that survivors are predominantly middle-aged to older-aged women from the Philippines, while many are U.S. citizens or survivors from Latin America, India, and numerous countries spanning SubSaharan Africa, including Ghana.
Junie, who works at a hair-braiding salon, didn’t touch on how human trafficking could take place in her own industry, but cases of labor trafficking in hair-braiding salons in places like New Jersey also shed light on the forced labor of adults and minors in this setting. In the case of United States v. Afolabi, some West African survivors were as young as 10 years old. They had their pay withheld and were subjected to physical and sexual abuse, in addition to long hours of work six to seven days a week.
The Salvation Army’s STOP-IT program helps survivors of human trafficking leave their situation and start a new life with services and referrals; regardless of age, race, nationality, gender, immigration status or sexual orientation in Cook County and the nine collar counties in Illinois. In addition to one-on-one case management, STOP-IT operates a drop-in center and staffs a 24-hour hotline for crisis intervention. Survivors, service providers, first responders, and community members can contact 877.606.3158 to safety plan, receive technical assistance, make referrals, or access any of the above services.