On Monday, July 10th, CAASE sraff attorney, Rachel Johnson joined Healing to Action for their research launch: Digging Deep Into Our Movements:Strategies to Stop Gender-based Violence Against Chicago’s Low-Wage Workers.
The new report says workers of the lowest income bracket are six times more likely to experience gender-based violence than people with higher incomes, and often have more challenges in getting help. Limited funding for services is a major barrier. Local social service agencies and worker centers are starting to work together to link services.
The event presented new research about how to build safe communities free from gender violence with simultaneous Spanish and English interpretation for community members. The event was a great success and was highlighted in local media reports including WBEZ and Univision.
Healing to Action advances a worker-led movement to end gender violence and envisions worker leaders creating safe, just workplaces and stable economic futures. Learn more on their website.
On Thursday May 18th, CAASE Educator Milton Coronado and CAASE Intern Kelsey Hoeper, taught a classroom of high school seniors about the realities of the sex trade, sex trafficking, consent, and so much more.Students learned about the overlap between prostitution and sex trafficking and how pimps use methods like force, fraud, and coercion to recruit young women into the sex trade. They also discussed how exploitative imagery in the media plays a role in normalizing sex trafficking and the exploitation of women.
We spoke to two students to get their new perspectives...
"Buying sex is usually in favor of the purchaser and it's part of a market that exploits women. I also think what we learned is important because even things we take part in every day, there's a bad side to it like what happens on college campuses with rape. I've learned a lot about things I didn't know were going on so I feel like I'd pay more attention to it in the future."
-Jesus Chavez, a senior at John Hancock High School.
"I'd want to speak up if I see something happening or advise my peers and I would tell my male peers to think before doing something like going to a strip club. I think what we learned is important because these are issues that can affect anyone, even someone you're close to."
-Jessica Tabarez, a senior at John Hancock High School.
If you'd like to support our Prevention education programs, join our Race for CAASE SWEET Run on July 23rd. Sign up to be on our team and help us expand our education programs to college campuses.
Your help will directly support our Prevention programs, including our new Students Working to End Exploitation and Trafficking, (or SWEET), which is specifically designed to equip and empower men on college campuses to become leaders who fight to end exploitation in their communities.
Know a high school student who'd like to run? For students age 14-18, the fundraising pledge for either race is $100.
Join the Race for CAASE team, make a donation, or become a sponsor, today!
Over 100 CAASE staff, supporters, survivors and friends gathered at Skadden Arps on October 20th to celebrate the 10th anniversary of CAASE’s founding. Guests enjoyed testimonials from CAASE allies, delicious food, spicy jalapeno cocktails, an amazing performance by poet Ireon Roach, and the first-ever CAASE raffle.
By the end of the evening, a total of over $25,000 had been raised to support CAASE services.
CAASE would like to thank our guests, sponsors, and donors who made the evening a success. CAASE is dedicated to improving lives, law, and understanding around sexual exploitation, throughout Chicago and across Illinois. After ten years, CAASE is still relatively small--especially compared to the size of the fight it has taken on--but it is mighty, and, with your continued support, it will continue to thrive and grow.
On Monday, September 26th 2016, CAASE partnered with DePaul University College of Law to host a public conversation about reporting campus sexual assault and the emergence of mobile apps and technology designed to increase campus sexual assault reporting.
Opening remarks were provided by Atty. General Lisa Madigan, CAASE Executive Director, Kaethe Morris Hoffer, and Shaye Loughlin, Director of the Center for Public Interest Law at DePaul University’s College of Law. The panel, moderated by CAASE Policy Director Lynne Johnson, included: Alicia Aiken, Director of the Confidentiality Institute; Sharmili Majmudar, Executive Director of Rape Victim Advocates; Veronica Portillo Heap, Title IX complainant and University of Chicago alum; Karen Tamburro, Title IX Coordinator at DePaul University and Luke Roopra, CEO & Co-Founder of Vertiglo Labs.
Roopra, CEO of Vertiglo, guided the audience through a demonstration of their new app, Lighthouse, designed for students on campuses to report sexual assault, harassment, or misconduct. As Roopra explained, students can create an account and fill out a form that has a number of options including: remaining anonymous, choosing who receives the report (local police, campus police or the Title IX office at the university), and many more. It also allows students to request a callback if they want to connect with service providers or have their school’s Title IX coordinator to contact them.
Roopra said the app is designed to be a vehicle that simply delivers the information to where the student wants it to go. “We’re trying to streamline the process of reporting for students in a simple, easy-to-use way.”
But key stakeholders sitting on the panel raised questions and concerns about reporting apps.
Panelists discussed the available resources for survivors of sexual assault on campuses and beyond. They also explained the importance of addressing rape culture, victim-blaming, and rape myths that continue to permeate our community understanding and response to sexual violence.
Among other important factors, educating youth - particularly young men - about consent, respect, and encouraging them to become allies is crucial to long-term change.
The Young Feminist Conference creates a forum where young women can listen and learn from local experts, role models and make powerful connections with their peers.
Learn more at www.otschicago.org
CAASE Policy Associate, Melissa Banerjee moderated a unique panel looking at demand reduction strategies for law enforcement and prosecutors.
As Cook County gears up to vote for the state’s attorney, advocates, survivors, and invested community members came together to discuss how the candidates will address gender based violence.
Candidates Anita Alvarez, Kim Foxx, and Donna More took the stage to answer questions about reducing criminal penalties against victims of gender based violence, charging practices in the office, and releasing data.
Audience members, and the community at large, submitted questions live on Twitter using the hashtags: #gvbstatesattorney & #endgenderbasedviolence.
Our community response to sexual violence must improve. Because voters are tasked with electing a state’s attorney next month, they have an opportunity to demand that the office prioritize the rights of survivors of sexual violence. Survivors of sexual harm deserve someone who represents their needs wholly, and can make their voices heard.
Be sure to look out for video footage of the entire forum in our next newsletter and be sure to vote on March 15th!
CAASE is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and does not support or oppose any candidates for public office. This is a nonpartisan communication meant only for public education purposes.
Chicago’s comedy community has recently made efforts to address a prevalent problem in comedian circles: sexual harassment. Chicago media outlets interviewed female comics who are bringing this issue to public conversations.
Taking proactive steps, local comedians also decided to host a workshop on how men in the comedy community can be allies against sexual harassment for their female peers.
On Saturday, February 6th, CAASE Educator Caleb Probst led a workshop at Laugh Out Loud Chicago for male comics to discuss misconceptions about sexual assault and harassment. The audience, made up of mostly improv comics, engaged in conversations about power and peer pressure, and practiced intervening in a sexual harassment-like scenario.
“One way to be a good ally is the same way you can be a good improv partner. 'Yes, and...' the person coming to you for support. Listen to them and let what they say be the reality and then respond accordingly," said Probst.
'Yes, and...' is a common rule of improv in which actors never deny a premise put forth by their peers during a scene. Probst encouraged a culture of believing survivors when they come forward and explained how they can be supportive of their needs.
CAASE’s Executive Director also sat on a panel hosted by Women in Comedy to discuss the problem of sexual harassment and assault and what actions local communities can take to support survivors. CAASE is excited to see the comedy community encouraging their members to become allies against sexual harassment and violence.
On Friday, August 7th our friend and ally Anne Ream of The Voices and Faces Project presented at the 5th Annual Cook County Human Trafficking Conference on the case for communications as the “third leg” of any effective effort to change minds, hearts and public policies on sexual exploitation and trafficking. As a part of a collaborative effort to transform our community’s response to prostitution, Anne and our End Demand Illinois campaign launched the Ugly Truth Campaign in 2012. The ad campaign included bus, train, and billboard ads raising awareness about the harm and reality of prostitution and the importance of addressing demand.
Moderating the discussion was CAASE Policy Director, Lynne Johnson who worked closely with Anne on the Ugly Truth Campaign. Anne addressed why media and marketing are vital to the movement to end gender-related violence, medium being as important as the message, how to use market research, and maximizing the impact on policy makers and opinion shapers.
Here are some great takeaways from Anne’s presentation you can use in your own work to communicate for a cause:
Our End Demand Illinois campaign works to transform our community’s response to sexual exploitation. We’ve come a long way, but a recent court decision has extended our impact even further.
In 2011, we passed the Justice for Victims of Sex Trafficking Crimes Act (JVST) which offers survivors of human trafficking the opportunity to have prostitution convictions removed from their records. Due to our policy reform, survivors in Illinois are able to use this law to remove difficult barriers in their lives.
When we drafted the bill for the JVST, we understood the complexities and experiences of survivors. Survivors taught us the multiple ways in which pimps and traffickers used force, fraud, and coercion to exploit them, often resulting in criminal convictions for offenses other than prostitution.
But last June, B.J.’s case was the very first in which an Illinois judge vacated a conviction other than prostitution under the JVST.
B.J. is a survivor who was given a hefty criminal record while being prostituted by multiple pimps over 30 years ago. She had three convictions for prostitution and one for public indecency. People impacted by prostitution often bear the brunt of criminal charges which prevent them from getting employment and the help they need to get out of the sex trade.
Judge Biebal understood that all of B.J.’s convictions were a result of her being trafficked by pimps and that she is a survivor deserving of our community’s support. That’s why he ruled that her record be completely expunged.
We’re thrilled to see the driving force behind our policy work – supporting survivors and understanding the realities of the sex trade – come to fruition in this case. We hope this shift becomes a permanent change in the way our court system responds to survivors of the sex trade.
On June 25th, 2015, over 50 people joined together at the Virgin Hotels Chicago for a screening of Dreamcatcher—complete with appetizers and an open bar. CAASE’s Young Activist Council collaborated with The Dreamcatcher Foundation to host the screening of the powerful and moving documentary: Dreamcatcher.
Dreamcatcher shares the story of Brenda Myers-Powell, co-founder of The Dreamcatcher Foundation and also a survivor of sexual exploitation. Brenda was involved in the sex trade industry for 25 years—enduring severe physical, sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of pimps, johns, and traffickers. While her past may be traumatic, Brenda uses her experience with sexual exploitation to help impact the lives of Chicago women that want to get out of the industry.
The film reveals the harsh realities that young women impacted by prostitution face every day. Viewers also got the chance to learn about what The Dreamcatcher Foundation is doing to change the lives of those women including working to prevent the sexual exploitation of at-risk youth and helping them find confidence and stability through education, empowerment, and active prevention.
Following the film, the audience had a chance to get their questions answered by CAASE’s Executive Director, Kaethe Morris Hoffer and Homer, an ex-pimp that now works with The Dreamcatcher Foundation.
The film, much like Brenda, Homer, and the rest of the inspiring survivors in Dreamcatcher, was incredibly impactful. A special thanks goes out to everyone at The Dreamcatcher Foundation, our Young Activist Council, and Virgin Hotels Chicago for helping to make this event a huge success!
As we work to transform our community’s response to sexual exploitation, CAASE teamed up with the Rockford Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation [RAASE] to provide training for law enforcement and prosecutors in Rockford.
On Tuesday June 16, Rockford law enforcement officials gathered at the YWCA for training on demand-focused operatives and prosecutions. The Rockford trainees learned specialized strategies for ending demand from a combination of expert police and prosecutors from Portland, Oregon and Phoenix, Arizona.
The day-long training featured professional peer-led training between local police and prosecutors and police/prosecutor teams doing demand-focused work in other parts of the country. Participants learned about investigation strategies and removing barriers to prosecution of people who buy sex. This included educating the participants about the realities of trafficking and prostitution so they can avoid criminal penalties for survivors who have been exploited.
“We see these [prostituted] women as part of a cycle they can’t get out of, not as criminals,” said Gallagher.
They also learned about the 6 laws in Illinois - led by CAASE’s End Demand Illinois campaign – which are all designed to provide meaningful support for survivors of prostitution and to target demand.
“If you don’t have buyers, you’re not going to have money for traffickers,” said Gallagher.
After the training, Rockford law enforcement and prosecutors spoke about how they can implement these strategies in their community and shared their commitment to begin a local team to end demand. CAASE hopes the training provided resources and strategies to a community new to demand suppression.
The trainers included JR Ujifusa, the Deputy District Attorney for the district of Oregon, Officer Mike Gallagher, a Portland police officer focusing on sex trafficking, Heidi Chance, a Vice Detective from the Phoenix Police Department, and Sara Micflikier, the Deputy County Attorney also from Phoenix.
The training was organized by a rich collaboration of groups committed to ending sexual exploitation including the CEASE Network who recommended the experts from Phoenix and Portland, CAASE and RAASE who organized the training, the Rockford YWCA who provided the venue, and the Novo Foundation who fully funded the project.
On Tuesday, March 31st, CAASE's Executive Director, Kaethe Morris Hoffer opened her lovely home to guests for a special CAASE house party.
A packed house of over 50 guests enjoyed signature cocktails and learned more about how CAASE is working to end sexual exploitation. Everyone from long time supporters to brand new friends learned about CAASE's work including our prevention education program aimed to empower youth to end sexual exploitation, our free legal services for survivors of sexual assault or prostitution, and our policy work to shift law enforcement's attention to pimps, johns, and traffickers.
Morris Hoffer gave a warm welcome, inviting friends, new and old, to participate in CAASE's work by learning more about sexual assault, prostitution, and sex trafficking. She encouraged them to start conversations with friends and peers that address the very real problem of sexual exploitation in our community.
CAASE Policy Director, Lynne Johnson explained how the current failures of criminal justice system to address sexual exploitation. While law enforcement continues to direct their time and resources on prostituted people who face abuse and exploitation at the hands of pimps, johns, and traffickers, those very same people causing all the harm are made invisible to us. Johnson urged the audience to shift our understanding of prostitution and to demand our local law enforcement and government to begin providing specialized services to survivors of prostitution and to direct their attention to those causing all the harm.
CAASE Board President shared his story of representing survivors of sexual assault in court and how that has inspired him to take steps to get involved, raise awareness, and contribute to CAASE. He asked his guests to do the same. Guests were invited to ask questions and learned how they could get involved with CAASE and how they can become an ally to end sexual exploitation in their community.
On Thursday, January 29th, CAASE Staff Attorney Katie Gaughan presented at the University of Chicago at an event hosted by the Amnesty International's Student Chapter.
Gaughan discussed the federal definition of human trafficking and how it takes place right here in Chicago. She explained the overlap between prostitution and trafficking and how many prostituted people engage in the sex trade through the use of force, fraud, or coercion by pimps.
Gaughan explained her work representing survivors of sexual assault and prostitution. One of the tools she uses to help survivors is litigating through the Justice for Victims of Sex Trafficking Crimes Act (JVST), which offers survivors of trafficking the opportunity to vacate their prostitution convictions. This allows survivors a chance to find employment, adopt children, and rebuild their lives.
On Saturday, January 17th, CAASE Policy Director Lynne Johnson joined survivors and advocates for a post-screening panel discussion on sex trafficking in Chicago.
The film, A Path Appears, goes to the USA, Colombia, Haiti, and Kenya to uncover the harshest forms of gender-based oppression and human rights violations, and solutions being implemented to combat them.
The panelists gave the audience a glance at the local angle, exploring the issue of sexual exploitation in Chicago.
CAASE Policy Director Lynne Johnson was joined by Brenda Myers-Powell of the Dreamcatcher Foundation, Janell Wheeler a survivor and speaker at Visible Voices, and Claudia Garcia-Rojas, the Co-Coordinator of the Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls and Young Women.
With an audience of over 200 guests, the panelists discussed survivors' experiences in prostitution and being sexually exploited at the hands of pimps and johns. Myers-Powell and Wheeler addressed common misperceptions widely held about customers who buy sex. Namely that they are a particular demographic or that they are hardened criminals.
"There is no typical abuser. People who buy sex are from all walks of life," said Myers-Powell. "They're from everywhere."
The speakers also discussed how pimps use coercive tactics like fraud and coercion by providing a false sense of love or promising money to young women. Pimps then recruit these women into the sex trade to exploit them for profit.
"They take advantage of a young girl who has no self-esteem and looking for a father's love," said Wheeler about her own experience being prostituted by family members.
Lynne discussed the importance of addressing demand and how law enforcement and the larger community need to focus their attention on the ones causing the harm, the pimps and johns.
"The people who buy sex are always invisible in this conversation. That needs to change," said Johnson.
The panelists shared ways in which community members can advocate for their local mayors and police chiefs to start supporting survivors of prostitution and to put their time and resources toward pimps, johns, and traffickers.
Senator Toi Hutchinson (center) with survivor leaders at CAASE's Celebrating Progress event
On November 17th, CAASE honored State Senator Toi Hutchinson with a CAASE Champion Award for her outstanding leadership to end sexual exploitation. Friends and supporters enjoyed signature cocktails and celebrated the work of CAASE's End Demand Illinois campaign. With over 100 guests including CAASE staff and survivor leaders, the night was a big success. Thank you for attending and making it a night to remember!
CAASE Staff Attorney Sheerine Alemzadeh co-led a workshop at this year's National Sexual Assault Conference in Pittsburgh. The workshiop focused on building coalitions between rape crisis agencies and labor rights organizers to combat sexual violence against low-wage workers.
The workshop focused on sharing the lessons learned from the Coalition Against Workplace Sexual Violence. It also educated participants about the special vulnerability factors that increase low-wage workers' risk of being subjected to sexual violence on the job. Participants attended from around the country and from a variety of organizational backgrounds, including social services agencies, foundations, rape crisis centers, the military, and church groups.
Alemzadeh presented with Karla Altmayer of LAF-Chicago's Migrant Legal Assistance Project and Elisa Ringholm of the Latino Union of Chicago. As a representative of CAASE, Alemzadeh co-founded CAWSV with her co-presenters and other community stakeholders throughout Chicago.
On Thursday, August 15, CAASE Policy Director Lynne Johnson, survivor leader and co-founder of the Dreamcatcher Foundation Brenda Myers-Powell, and survivor Dr. Joel Filmore presented on the Justice for Victims of Sex Trafficking Crimes Act (JVST). The presentation was hosted at the 4th Annual Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force Conference held at Loyola University.
Brenda and Joel each gave their compelling personal accounts of being trafficked at the hands of pimps and going through the criminal justice system. Both explained how difficult life was after escaping the sex trade.
CAASE held an open house on Wednesday, August 6th, 2014 to celebrate our brand new office. Old friends and new learned more about our mission and programs. Our guests were welcomed by Attorney General Lisa Madigan who spoke on behalf of the important work being done at CAASE to end sexual exploitation and support survivors.
We were so thrilled to share our new space with over 100 visitors. Guests toured the offices, enjoyed refreshments, and met CAASE staff, CAASE board members and our Young Activist Council. A special thank you goes to H2Vino who donated the delicious wine.
Please enjoy our photo slideshow below and we hope to see you again very soon!
CAASE’s client, a 22-year-old survivor of sexual assault who first came to CAASE for legal representation in the fall of 2013, was just granted a stalking no contact order. The client was a college student who after being sexually assaulted, experienced serious stalking behavior from the perpetrator who was also a fellow classmate.
“This is a significant victory because the survivor’s safety was really at risk, and now she has the protection she needs,” said CAASE Staff Attorney, Katie Gaughan.
Gaughan represented the survivor in litigation under the Stalking No Contact Order Act and on July 17, 2014, the case went to trial at the Domestic Violence Courthouse. The client testified to the stalking and harassing behavior she experienced at the hands of the perpetrator.
As a result of the trial, the Judge granted a two-year plenary stalking no contact order in favor of the client. The order requires the perpetrator to stay away from the survivor’s home, work, and school. The perpetrator is also prohibited from contacting her by any means. If the perpetrator violates the order, he can be charged with a misdemeanor. If he violates it a second time, he can be charged with a felony.
“It is rare for these types of cases to actually go to trial,” explained Gaughan. “It is also rare for Judges to grant these orders after a trial. Hopefully this case will begin to show Judges that stalking is a serious issue that affects victims’ day-to-day lives, and without a stalking no contact order, survivors live in constant fear of being followed or attacked by their harasser,” she said.
After receiving the stalking no contact order, the client was overjoyed with relief and had a new found sense of security. “I feel relief, protection and freedom. And gratitude to CAASE for helping me!” she said.
CAASE attorneys offer pro bono individualized legal advice, consultation, and representation following and related to sexual assault. We tailor our services to the needs of individuals and serve survivors of every sex, race, socio-economic status, ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, and immigration status.
On Saturday, July 11th, CAASE's Young Activist Council (YAC) participated in a Guest Bartending fundraiser at STATE bar in Lincoln Park. In just two short hours, the YAC bartenders -Ana, Saundra, Michelle, and Vicki- raised over $600 for CAASE by selling $15 wristbands for guests who were able to enjoy delicious appetizers, beer, and drinks for the evening. The YAC had an estimated 97 customers for the night!
Customers learned about the work of CAASE, sex trafficking and ending demand. Guests also had a chance to get their very own "Buy Beers, Not People" t-shirts, the proceeds of which directly support CAASE and they're also available online.
Tuesday, May 20th - CAASE Executive Director, Kaethe Morris Hoffer joined Attorney Ross Neihaus to speak to college students about sexual assault and the law. As part of UChicago's Sexual Assault Awareness Week, the University of Chicago Against Sexual Exploitation and the Sorpotimists hosted an event to give students answers about their rights and advice on how to go about seeking legal representation.
An audience of about 75 guests, mostly students, filed in their seats to learn more about what rights they're entitled to and how to use the resources available to them when it comes to sexual assault.
Neihaus described his experience providing legal representation to a university student who was sexually assaulted by some classmates, and described the complex ways in which student legal rights under Title IX both conflict with and complement their rights as crime victims. Neihaus also pointed out which other remedies under a variety of civil laws - for example, the Illinois Civil No Contact Order Act - students are entitled to.
He made the case for the importance of victims having their own legal counsel, because of the many pitfalls that exist for victims attempting to negotiate with a variety of systems including criminal, University administration, and civil legal courts that all have very different rules and expectations. Neihaus explained that none of these systems are set up specifically to be accountable to survivor needs and rights.
Why is this such an important conversation to have?
Morris Hoffer explained that the prevalence of rape on college campuses means that significant numbers of college students will be impacted by rape during their college years, and as students they have particular rights under Federal law to expect that their universities will play an active role in responding to the ways in which sexual assault negatively impacts their ability to get what they are entitled to: an education.
"All students ought to have enough information so that they can effectively seek assistance, both from legal counsel and from their communities,” said Morris Hoffer.
Learn more about the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation's free legal services here. If you or someone you know has questions or would like legal representation, please contact us at 773-244-2230, ext. 4. or email email@example.com.
On Saturday, May 10, CAASE's Young Activist Council hosted an informative and engaging film screening of The Whistleblower. The film was inspired by Kathryn Bolkovac, the inspirational woman who risked her own life to uncover human trafficking and prostitution. Bolkovac’s story astounded the world and her audience Saturday, who eagerly shared their questions with Bolkovac after the screening.
Several members of the YAC, CAASE's Board, and guests gathered at the Willow Creek Community Church to learn more about sex trafficking and what efforts are being made on a domestic an international level to fight sex trafficking. Bolkovac shared her true stories of seeing the effects of sex trafficking firsthand and emphasized the importance of holding perpetrators accountable.
CAASE Executive Director, Kaethe Morris Hoffer, moderated the discussion and spoke about ways in which CAASE has sought to transform our response to sexual exploitation and explained the ways in which ending demand is possible through deterring the purchase of sex. After the discussion, guests had the opportunity to get their copies of The Whistleblower signed by Bolkovac.
Guests also joined Bolkovac for an exclusive dinner program at The Back Room sponsored by CAASE's Board of Directors. She, along with special guest speaker, Major General Charles Tucker, an international expert on human trafficking, engaged attendees in a compelling conversation about human trafficking, peacekeeping, and bringing awareness to the global epidemic of sex trafficking. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Marco Tavanti, an international expert on fair trade, indigenous rights, poverty reduction, sustainable development and a consultant for the United Nations.
See slideshow below:
Tuesday, April 29th - CAASE staff participated in an event hosted by Mujeres Latinas en Accion. The Bandana Project is a national effort bringing communities together to decorate and display bandanas as a symbolic gesture to raise awareness of the sexual exploitation of farmworker women. The project adopted the bandana as a symbol of solidarity to end this abuse because many farmworker women use bandanas on the job to cover their faces and bodies in an attempt to ward off unwanted sexual attention that often leads to rape.
The event started with a panel discussion featuring guest speaker Monica Ramirez of Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, who is the founder of the Bandana Project and a leading national expert on sexual violence against farmworker women. Ramirez provided expertise about the epidemic of sexual violence in agricultural work and spoke about national efforts to combat sexual violence against farmworkers, noting that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has identified sexual violence against farmworkers as one of its key priorities due to national advocacy efforts.
CAASE staff attorney Sheerine Alemzadeh spoke about local efforts to combat workplace sexual violence against immigrant and low wage workers, focusing on the development of the Coalition Against Workplace Sexual Violence. Karla Altmayer of the Illinois Migrant Legal Assistance Project provided expertise on sexual violence against farmworkers in Illinois. Anne Ream, Director of the Voices and Faces Project, moderated the panel.
Panelists discussed immigration status as a barrier to coming out of the shadows and reporting sexual violence, how abuse of farmworkers is a symptom of a larger culture of impunity for sexual violence, and how audience members could get involved to stand with farmworker women in the fight against sexual violence. After the panel, audience members and panelists decorated bandanas together as one of many communities who are hosting Bandana events across the nation for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Thursday, April 24 - CAASE Policy and Advocacy Director, Lynne Johnson joined a forum to address the issue of sex trafficking in Illinois. The panelists included Pilar Dunning, Program Manager of Salvation Army's STOP-IT, and Jack Blakey, Chief of the Special Prosecutions Bureau for the Cook County State's Attorney's office. Congressman Roskam of Illinois' 6th district hosted the forum in an effort to raise awareness of sex trafficking and to invite experts to share best practices. The audience included local leaders and law enforcement.
Under the Illinois Safe Children Act, passed in 2010 and spearheaded by CAASE's End Demand Illinois legislative initiative, Cook County has been able to prosecute more cases in recent years. These laws coupled with the creation of a Cook County task force on human trafficking has allowed for law enforcement and social and legal service agencies together to work on trafficking cases.
Johnson stressed that holding perpetrators accountable is a highly effective response to prostitution and sex trafficking. Equipped with research of pimps and johns, Johnson explained that deterring the purchase of sex is possible if customers are faced with repercussions for their crimes including being arrested and fined.
Despite our knowledge of this, explained Johnson, deterrence efforts are often stifled by our community’s acceptance of these crimes and myths about prostitution that pervade our society.
“Our communities are supporting traffickers, pimps, and johns. Customers have expressed that they know they are not going to be punished for this, said Johnson. “People who buy sex are rarely, if ever, convicted for the purchase of sex.” “And what we know from talking to pimps and johns is that the only thing they are deterred by is being arrested by you,” said Johnson, addressing the police officers in the room.
Illinois has recently revised its policies around handling trafficking. Blakey explained that one of the primary issues law enforcement faced was not being able to recognize that trafficking is taking place. “Most officials are unaware of what the offense “human trafficking” means and oftentimes these crimes are occurring within their jurisdiction,” said Blakey.
Blakey explained that some of the area's human trafficking is connected to gangs. "We'll see gangs fight over drug territory but cooperate when it comes to domestic sex trafficking," Blakey said. "You can sell a kilo once. You can sell a child over and over."
Cook County now treats trafficking cases like organized crime cases, according to Blakey, with the goal of shutting down the operation no matter what itssize. “Treating these cases like we would any organized crime case is extremely important in prosecuting not only a few individuals but the operations which perpetuate these crimes,” said Blakey. “Even a small pimp operation is organized crime in legal terms.”
While CAASE works with legislators and the community at large to focus their attention on holding perpetrators accountable and creating laws that provide services for survivors, law enforcement works with service providers like STOP-IT.
"Our collaboration with law enforcement, prosecutors, service providers, and hospital personnel is intrumental in providing support to the diverse needs of trafficked persons," explained Dunning. "Our 24/7 hotline 877-606-3158 is available for technical assistance for professionals, as well as clients interested in our program."
Dunning encouraged the audience to collaborate with STOP-IT and to learn more about how they can assist with trafficking cases.
See slideshow below:
CAASE Staff Attorney Sheerine Alemzadeh joined by Allison Creekmur a VISTA Attorney with LAF and Karla Altmayer, an Equal Justice Works Fellow with LAF, invited attorneys to a special CLE training giving them an opportunity to learn more about successfully representing clients in sexual harassment cases. The presenters engaged their fellow attorneys by providing tools to better represent clients struggling with post-traumatic stress and encouraged participants to use the law creatively to empower survivors.
Alemzadeh provided attorneys with a toolbox of laws and helped explain which laws would be the most useful for which cases. She included an in-depth analysis of Title VII, the Illinois Human Rights Act, and the Illinois Victims’ Economic Safety and Security Act. Altmayer presented information about the Illinois Gender Violence Act and state workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance laws. Both stressed the importance of thoroughly examining all options provided by each law to decide which would be the most effective when litigating for a case.
Another facet to these cases is the overlap between sexual assault and human trafficking, especially with undocumented workers. Creekmur provided useful information about trafficking laws and how to handle cases which call for immigration relief and explained the parameters around clients' eligibility to apply for the T and U visas.
Alemzadeh and Altmayer explained that a common challenge for all kinds of sexual assault cases, is navigating your way through a client's story because they must be pieced together over a period of time. This poses particular challenges of credibility and consistency in court, explained Alemzadeh. She offered tips and techniques for how to resolve this issue including using the option to amend pleadings, reading facts out loud, and asking clients to review their testimony.
The presenters also illustrated how their clientele are often re-victimized. When someone is sexually assaulted they have to deal with their trauma and are then blamed for failing to report the crime immediately. They explained that this results from the commonly used rhetoric around sexual assault founded in myths and stereotypes. One useful tool for attorneys is to prepare their clients for cross-examinations by being honest and up front about what to expect. Because rape myths and victim blaming are often used in court, alerting clients to what they might hear is critical for them to feel ready.
Altmyer pointed out that another common problem in court is the lack of understanding when it comes to post-trauma behavior and coping mechanisms. She explained that one crucial practice for attorneys is to empower survivors during interviews and understand how they identify themselves.
After the presentation, the attorney trio led an interactive discussion and gave the attendees hypothetical scenarios to practice what they learned. Participants earned CLE credit and came away with a deeper understanding of litigating cases involving sexual violence in the workplace.
On April 4th, Amnesty International held their annual human rights conference in downtown Chicago. The agenda included a discussion about whether Amnesty International should endorse a policy calling on governments to decriminalize ALL aspects of prostitution, including the purchase of sex.
In response to this discussion, CAASE along with Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer published an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune explaining why Amnesty should reject the proposal.
While CAASE advocates for an end to arrest and re-arrest of prostituted people, decriminalizng people who buy sex is the wrong policy, because they are frequent prepetrators of violence, abuse, and exploitation of prostituted people.
In a rally outside the conference, CAASE teamed up with Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer, Breaking Free Executive Director and Survivor, Vednita Carter, and others to urge Amnesty International and their members to reject the proposal as it relates to pimps, johns, and traffickers.
In a crowd of supporters, CAASE's Executive Director, Kaethe Morris Hoffer explained that decriminalizing the purchase of sex would enable pimps and johns to take even more advantage of their abusive position in the commercial sex trade. Hoffer said that decriminalization of the purchase of sex does makes the power dynamic between the men who buy sex and the women and girls who are purchased even worse and exaserbates the problem of sexual exploitation. She emphasized the importance and effectiveness of focusing on ending demand and deterring men from buying sex in the first place.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan exuberantly told the crowd,"There are not children who grow up thinking that one day they want to be a prostitute, because there is no dignity in that work. There is exploitation. There is violence. There is poverty. We will stand against it.”
Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer explained that pimps and johns are the ones who should be criminalized and survivors should be supported. Gainer echoed CAASE's belief that the arrest and re-arrest of people in prostitution is a violation of human rights and an ineffective response.
Amnesty International held off on making a final decision and will likely take a stance in October of this year.
On Sunday, March 2, CAASE Executive Director, Kaethe Morris Hoffer, spoke at Congregation Solel’s Women’s Seder in Highland Park. Women from the surrounding North Shore communities gathered together for a festive meal and a second helping of human trafficking awareness.
In the Jewish tradition, Seder, a festive holiday meal, means "order,” and traditionally symbolizes stages of the meal as a path from slavery to freedom in reference to the Exodus story of Jewish slaves in Egypt. CAASE partnered with Congregation Solel to create a Seder with a focus on human trafficking. This women’s Seder highlighted the story of modern slavery and participants recounted realities surrounding the condition of women and girls across the country and the world.
“Our Women's Seder was an opportunity to examine the relevance of the Passover story to our modern lives. Human Trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery and as Jewish women, it is our distinct responsibility to learn more and to speak out against this horrendous practice,” said Cantor Vicky Gilkin of Congregation Solel.
Guests participated in prayers and songs as a commemoration of the season of liberation. An extra place was set at the Seder table representing the victims of human trafficking as a reminder of those who remain in bondage.
“Our Seder’s focus on trafficking of women and girls as an example of modern slavery made real our Jewish religion’s obligations to condemn the horrors of slavery (whether physical, emotional or intellectual) and the power of individuals to cause the redemption of an entire community,” said Gabrielle Siegal, a member of Solel.
CAASE Executive Director, Kaethe Morris Hoffer, informed the audience about sexual exploitation in Illinois and the continuing problem of law enforcement failing to punish pimps and johns. In an effort to link the Jewish tradition of opposing oppression and enslavement to our own community effort to end harm, CAASE encouraged the participants to sign letters to local mayors and police chiefs, urging them to prosecute sex traffickers and buyers and to help end sexual exploitation of victims.
“By contacting our local government and law enforcement agencies, we are acting as change agents in bringing more attention to this important issue and to standing up to the injustices associated with it,” said Gilkin.
“The best Seders are those that educate the participants,” said Siegal. “Kaethe Morris Hoffer and CAASE did just that – they educated us on the factors causing prostitution and trafficking and the possibility that, through ending demand, we can end human trafficking,” she said.
“The Seder was particularly meaningful to me as the focus on trafficking of women and girls demonstrated how the traditional, Biblical themes of the Passover story, from slavery to freedom, are relevant today,” said Susan Altfield, a member of Solel.
“Kaethe's presentation and her recommendations regarding actions we can take to help address these injustices engaged us all and emphasized that we need to do more than hear the stories of victims and survivors,” said Altfield.
Over 85 petition letters were signed and mailed to local mayors and police chiefs in northern Illinois communities like Deerfield, Buffalo Grove, Highland Park, and many others.
Take part in addressing demand and ending sexual exploitation in your community. Download this letter and send it to your local Mayor and Police Chief, urging them to prosecute traffickers, pimps, and johns, and to stand with survivors.
See event slideshow below: