Humans of The Anti-Trafficking Movement - Part 3
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.
"I saw a documentary at one point about sex slavery that happens in Thailand. I imagine that human trafficking happens more than I am aware. WE do see a lot of vulnerable people in the hospital. My job is to support families and patients in crisis. I think of the vulnerable populations in our congregation. At this point in my chaplaincy, human trafficking has not crossed my path. People that have experienced human trafficking have surely experienced trauma and would have many emotional and spiritual needs. I would look to provide support in any way possible." - Laura, Hospital Chaplain and Minister.
Hospital chaplains and faith-based organizations can play an essential role in assisting trafficking survivors. They may very well encounter survivors of trafficking in their work or in their congregations. For survivors who have not had spiritual abuse be a part of their trafficking experience, support from a chaplain, minister, pastor, rabbi, guru or imam may elicit hope and a way by which to heal and come to terms with their experience. This could very well serve as a spiritual place for support and a community a survivor may choose to trust enough to disclose a trafficking situation, if and when they are ready to safely exit.
A Word of Caution
Sometimes, religion has been used negatively to keep survivors in their situations or blame and shame them for their victimization. In this instance, spiritual guidance or support may be a trigger. Hospital chaplains should take care to identify when it is appropriate to engage a patient in spiritual conversation and be willing to offer culturally specific support as necessary and available.
The Lyft Driver
"As a Lyft driver, I remember one time I drove a domestic violence counselor that works in the suburbs. She told me how common it was. This counselor went from home to home to do visits. She went to a home where a woman was acting strange, like she was speaking in code. She later remembered that the house did look kind of empty. The only furniture was a bed and the kitchen wasn't being used. When she went back, the woman wasn't there any more. She made me realize that for many of these women it might be a life or death situation if they are aught by their abuser.
I also had a friend that went into a massage parlor in the suburbs and they offered him sexual services. He called the police, and they said that it was on their radar. I haven't had anyone in my care where I have picked up the vibe that they are being trafficked, but it is hard to know." - Frank, Lyft Driver, Chicago
A 2018 report by Polaris found that 47 percent of survivors interviewed used taxis in their trafficking situation. Nine percent specifically mentioned Lyft or Uber, though many were trafficked during a time that predated the general availability of these services. In addition, during focus groups with service providers who work with sex-trafficking survivors presently, all attested that their clients frequently (if not exclusively) use services such as Uber and Lyft when traveling to appointments. We know through our work in the STOP-IT program that this transportation can often be a critical place for survivors to be able to access resources and a place for drivers to be able to better recognize the signs of trafficking.
It is for this reason that The Salvation Army, The Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force and Lyft have partnered locally to offer driver education and training for staff at the driver hubs in Chicago so the staff are better able to report suspicious rides and connect riders to resources as appropriate. This type of partnership allows more companies to join the anti-trafficking movement.
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.