Humans of The Anti-Trafficking Movement - Part 2
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 Bus Driver
"Human trafficking is a worldwide problem. People are moved from place to place against their will - but they could also stay in the same place. I don't know if I have ever seen it because I wouldn't have any idea what to look for or how to recognize it. We should be getting posters up on what to look for and put them on buses and in stations. I could have seen it and wouldn't even know it." - Wayne, Bus Driver, Chicago
According to a 2018 report by Polaris, buses were used in a variety of industries during trafficking experiences reported to the National Hotline, including in agriculture, bars, strip clubs, cantinas, domestic work, escort services, forestry and logging, illicit massage businesses, peddling and begging, residential sex trafficking, restaurant and food services, and traveling sales crews. Of the 104 survivors who responded to survey questions in this report, a total of 42 percent stated that they or their traffickers used local or long-distance buses in the facilitation of their exploitation.
Buses have been used at the onset of a trafficking situation to physically get someone into the situation, are sometimes a place for recruitment, and are also a means of transportation while in the trafficking situation itself. When used to get someone into the situation, people may believe they are simply traveling to meet a new boyfriend or enter an exciting job opportunity, making trafficking that much harder to identify. In situations of recruitment for work in illicit massage businesses, traffickers may hand out business cards near the Chinatown bus to young women, many of whom are working or heading to work in restaurant jobs. In traveling sales crews, it is routine for traffickers to promise transportation if the person joins the crew. In situations of sex trafficking, traffickers purchase bus tickets for people joining them and also have their people recruit at stations, knowing that runaway and homeless youth might be in need of transportation.
Because buses are a part of the experience in a variety of circumstances and at various stages of a person's exploitation, they are also a critical place for intervention. In 2016, Illinois passed a law requiring that bus stations post a notice with the National Human Trafficking Hotline number in a conspicuous place. This law, and others like it, offer resources to survivors and a hotline for staff to use if they spot something suspicious.
The Tattoo Artist
"I have encountered this multiple times at the shop I used to work - a man would bring in different girls and have his name tattooed on them. He would have them get tattooed on their lower back, which was the main spot they would choose. Sometimes it was mid-back or shoulder blade. I personally refused to tattoo them every time. There was one time where we refused to serve this man because when the girl was filling out paperwork, we talked to her privately and told her she didn't have to do it if she didn't want to. She replied saying that she didn't want to and that she was scared. So, we figured out a way to deny services. The man was furious and tried to talk to the boss to figure out a way to get it done." - Robert, Tattoo Artist, Chicago
Sex traffickers often use branding as a way to mark the people under their control. This most literal representation of ownership can be reflected in a variety of ways, including that of the trafficker's name or pseudonym, nicknames they have assigned to the people under their control, or even the rules of their particular operation and images of things like horseshoes to dehumanize those being victimized. If someone is unable to describe why they are getting a specific tattoo or appears to be with someone controlling when they do, this may be a red flag. Other warning signs might include language around "the life," participation in the sex trade, and repeat customers who come with different people and dictate the type and location of the tattoo.
Several tattoo artists in the area now offer tattoo removal or cover up as a way to help survivors move forward from a human trafficking situation. This is a critical way the industry can join the anti-trafficking movement.
The Home Health Professional
"In my work in hospice care, I come into contact with a lot of home healthcare providers. These are usually private caregivers, not working with an official agency. I haven't had a lot of conversation with these people, but I have seen people in a lot of unhealthy labor situations. Many of these people are at the home 24 hours a day. They sleep at the homes, but have to wake up whenever the person needs something. Many of them do not speak English. They have no contracts and find out about the jobs through word of mouth. I have no training on this. I don't know what to do. I wouldn't know how to talk to them about their labor concerns, it would be very awkward to do it with our interpreting service." - Emily, Home Health Professional, Chicago
Domestic workers, like agricultural workers, were historically excluded from many of the federal and state legislative efforts around fair labor standards. In 2016, Governor Bruce Rauner signed the Illinois Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights into law, affording them many of the same protections that other workers were granted in years past. The Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights protects workers by guaranteeing the right to be paid at least a minimum wage in Illinois, the right to one day of rest each week for those who work 20 hours or more and the right to be protected against sexual harassment in the workplace. These laws lift up domestic workers rights and more importantly give them the opportunity to reach out for help when things like wage theft, threats, and intimidation occur in the context of labor exploitation and labor trafficking. Governmental branches like the Department of Labor and workers' rights centers like ARISE and the Latino Union are able to monitor, negotiate, and advocate on behalf of workers right here in Chicago.
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.