PROTECTING VICTIMS' RIGHTS

9/10/19 

Thousands of people are sexually victimized in Cook County every year. If they decide to seek justice by being involved in criminal proceedings, it will require them to stay engaged in lengthy, legally complex, and often traumatizing processes with countless opportunities for their rights to be violated. These conditions make it important to hire an attorney yet few will have access to one. Legal representation is costly and simply out of reach for most victims. This is especially true for those who’ve survived the sex trade. Thankfully, CAASE can help.

For the past 10 years, our work to end sexual harm in Chicago has included providing free and comprehensive legal services for survivors in both civil and criminal cases. In fact, we’re the only organization in Illinois with specific expertise representing the rights of survivors within the context of the criminal justice system. Getting help from someone with these specific skills is often our clients’ primary need. That’s why we’re excited to have won a grant to expand these services.

CAASE was chosen as one of six sites to implement the Victims’ Rights Enforcement Project–also known as Rights In Systems Enforced Project (“RISE Project”)*. It aims to raise awareness of victims’ rights and increase victim access to no-cost legal services to help them assert and enforce their rights in the criminal justice system. This award will substantially increase CAASE’s capacity for direct services by creating a new division within our existing legal program called Victims’ Rights Representation (“VRR”). With this funding, we’re able to hire four new attorneys, a paralegal, and a case manager over the next three years. Additionally, it allows us to invest in our holistic approach to changing systems—a method we’ve practiced since our founding. 

Cultivating broader change will require new collaborations between VRR, our Community Engagement department, and our Public Policy and Advocacy department. All three will take on the work of increasing awareness of victims’ rights in under-resourced Chicago communities which suffer disproportionate levels of sexual harm. Our Public Policy and Advocacy team will spearhead efforts with prosecutors, criminal justice professionals, and key community stakeholders to ensure they understand victims’ rights. They will also coordinate with VRR staff to ensure that their initiatives effectively improve laws, policies, and practices that impact victims of sexual harm. Simultaneously, CAASE’s Community Engagement department will collaborate with VRR staff to identify ongoing community needs, form a Survivor Leader Council to evaluate VRR initiatives, and make sure CAASE’s work is responsive to the needs of survivors and vulnerable communities.

Through its participation in the RISE Project, CAASE aims to transform the treatment of survivors of sexual harm within the criminal justice system in Cook County, ensuring that their rights are respected throughout the process. We are excited about this opportunity and encourage you to follow along with us as we grow and develop this work.

*Victims’ Rights Enforcement Project–also known as Rights In Systems Enforced Project is a nation-wide initiative of the National Crime Victims’ Law Institute through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), (award number 2018-V3-GX-K01).


 

THANKING OUR PRO BONO PARTNERS

9/5/19 

Sexual assault and sex trafficking can lead to complex legal matters. CAASE’s Legal Program helps survivors through these difficult situations by providing high-quality legal representation to hundreds of clients each year. We are able to do so, in part, through the support of our Pro Bono Partners. 

Private firm attorneys volunteer their expertise to help survivors of sexual harm through CAASE’s Pro Bono Project. CAASE attorneys assess clients’ legal needs and eligibility for services, link them with trained pro bono attorneys, and provide ongoing support and mentorship to pro bono attorneys representing CAASE-referred clients. Each year we hold an event to share our appreciation for the hard work and successes of the firms and pro bono attorneys who dedicate their time and energy to survivors of sexual exploitation and violence.

This year we honored the firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom L.L.P. As long-time supporters of CAASE, they’ve provided hundreds of hours of work on cases involving the Gender Violence Act, the protection of survivors' rights within the context of criminal justice proceedings, and more. We also honored attorneys Precious Jacobs and Garrett Fitzsimmons of Jenner & Block L.L.P. for their work on behalf of a woman who was brought to the United States under false pretenses, where she was exploited and assaulted.  

Eddie Houlihan, Pro Bono and Community Relations Supervisor, accepts the award on behalf of Skadden Arps. More photos here.

Attorneys Precious Jacobs and Garrett Fitzsimmons of Jenner & Block L.L.P. accept their awards. More photos here.

We’re so thankful this year’s honorees have chosen to be a part of CAASE’s Pro Bono Project. It’s a vital part of our Legal Program that helps us serve more clients, provides high-quality representation to survivors, and connects attorneys with fulfilling volunteer opportunities. If you are interested in getting involved with our Pro Bono Project, contact Adela Tiscareño at atiscareno@caase.org.


 

DEFINING THE VALUES WE LIVE BY

9/30/19

Since 2006, CAASE has stood with survivors as we work to end sexual harm in Chicago. At our organization’s founding, our 3-person staff focused on prevention education and public policy reform. Over the past 13 years, we’ve expanded to a staff of 20 whose work also includes community engagement and legal representation for survivors in civil and criminal cases. Our approaches and capacity have grown significantly—and so has our vision for the future.

Our planning for what comes next has always been based upon the values we hold as an organization. The ideals that guide our work are distinctly embodied by our staff and the actions they take on a daily basis. Yet, these principles have remained undefined. We knew we needed to distill our collective understanding of CAASE’s core values in order to continue on a unified and clear path forward.

A joint committee of staff and Board members came together to provide invaluable input on what unique principles describe CAASE and its endeavors. After diligently working together over several months, we are proud to introduce CAASE’s newly adopted values: 

Dignity 
We respect the inherent humanity of all people and strive to expand opportunities for personal autonomy.

Accountability 
We answer to survivors and collaborate with allies as we seek to hold those responsible for harm accountable.

Progress 
We create individual, institutional and cultural change by using innovative approaches to ending sexual harm. 

Equity 
We commit to building a world where every person, with consideration for their intersecting identities and unique circumstances, has the same access to opportunity and power.

These values shape the way we approach our work, guide the way we make decisions, and measure the success of our efforts. We’re proud to present them to supporters like you and hope you will help us live our values every day as we build a future free from sexual harm.


 

STUDENT FEEDBACK AND DATA DRIVE PREVENTION WORK

7/25/19

In the 2018-2019 school year, CAASE’s prevention education workshops served 4,925 youth. That’s more than ever before and we still observed that 100% of students demonstrated improvement across all evaluated areas. One particularly impressive area of growth was in understanding the cause of commercial sexual exploitation. Before starting the program, students often saw prostitution as an empowered choice. However, by the end of the program, we saw a significant 371% increase in understanding that demand causes prostitution.

View a summary of the data we collected and how it will inform our work this academic year.

Another highlight from the past school year was an expansion to our curriculum. We added a fifth session specifically centered on consent so we could dive deeper into the topic. The workshop was so successful and popular that a waitlist was implemented due to the volume of requests from schools. Not only were school administrators interested in the consent session, but students specifically noted its importance in their surveys. One student wrote, “The information that stood out most to me was the consent talk because we need to know and be aware of what we give consent to.” Students demonstrated an improved understanding of consent and sexual assault on their post-workshop surveys and also frequently stated they wanted to learn even more about it. In part, current events helped spark this curiosity.

Just like adults, teens are exposed to the news cycle. However, they may not have the same tools or knowledge to sift through social media narratives and conflicting information. News articles—depending on the rhetoric and framing—can obscure the reality of exploitation and sexual assault, complicating student perception of sexual harm. However, the news cycle also provides our prevention team with relevant examples that provide context and foster an engaging dialogue between our staff and participating youth. In fact, teens are often the ones to bring these stories into class discussions.

In the 2017-2018 school year, the #MeToo movement raised a lot of questions for students and gave them specific insight into understanding sexual harm. Likewise, this past year we found that media coverage about R. Kelly and Michael Jackson led to questions and debates in our sessions. As we prepare for workshops this fall, we will continue to keep a focus on discussion and empower students to bring what's happening in the world around them into our programs through open dialogue. 

Prevention Manager Shalini opens a dialogue with high schoolers.

In reflecting on the prior school year, we also learned workshop environments impact student growth. Analyzing the pre- and post-workshop surveys revealed that male students participating in our Empowering Youth series, a co-ed space, demonstrated the most consistent growth and exhibited more growth than male students participating in the Empowering Young Men series, a male-only space. Male students in the latter workshop were more inconsistent in their post-workshop survey answers and on average answered more questions with the response “unsure.” Our finding that male students learn more about sexual harm in co-ed spaces is consistent with national findings which suggest diverse environments produce a variety of perspectives that foster understanding. On the other hand, gender-segregated spaces create echo chambers that often reinforce stereotypes. We’ll use this valuable finding to encourage co-ed workshops in schools if they have not already requested it. 

We are thankful that the data we collect each year helps us improve our programs and better educate young students so that they can become allies in ending sexual harm. Now, we’re ready to put this knowledge to good use as classes resume this fall! 

To learn more about CAASE's prevention programs, visit our website. You can also read about and request workshops here.


LANGUAGE ABOUT EPSTEIN’S VICTIMS MATTERS: CAASE's Response to "The Daily" Podcast from "The New York Times"

7/9/19

Like countless other victims’ rights organizations across the country, CAASE is heartened by the prospect of Jeffrey Epstein finally being held appropriately accountable for his sexual exploitation of teenage girls. We are hopeful that survivors will receive the justice they seek and undoubtedly deserve. However, CAASE is troubled by the language journalists have used to describe Epstein’s victims and the crimes against them. An exchange during the July 9 episode of the New York Times’ “The Daily” podcast between host Michael Barbaro and Miami bureau chief Patricia Mazzei caught our attention particularly. 

In discussing the non-prosecution agreement from 2008 (which resulted in a solicitation of prostitution conviction for Epstein instead of more serious sex trafficking charges), the pair implied that had Epstein’s victims been adults instead of children when his crimes occurred, they wouldn’t actually be victims. 

Buying sex is not a victimless crime. Ignoring that reality denies the plethora of harms and vulnerabilities faced by those in the sex trade. Barbaro and Mazzei’s words imply that if Epstein’s victims were adults, his actions would not have been exploitative. 

From our work with survivor-leaders, we know that prostitution and trafficking are inextricably linked. We know that survivors of all ages experience staggering levels of emotional trauma and physical harm and have higher rates of PTSD than combat veterans. In the initial investigation by the Miami Herald, two of Epstein’s victims publicly spoke of the trauma they still experience from his actions, and how he deliberately sought out and took advantage of girls who were living in poverty and came from disadvantaged families. Both factors are common on-ramps into prostitution and trafficking at any age.

As Epstein’s case continues to unfold, we ask the New York Times’ and other news outlets to recognize that prostitution is not a victimless crime. We hope they’ll avoid using language that minimizes survivors’ trauma and their experiences leading to and within the sex trade.


 

SPEAKING IN DIALOGUE -  the Practice of Community Engagement

7/2/19

Community engagement goes by a few different aliases: audience development, outreach, organizing, networking. While it may involve those activities, I think community engagement is much more than any of those terms imply. Michael Rohd, a theatre practitioner who has collaborated with communities too numerous to name, taught me to think of community engagement as learning to speak in dialogue rather than engaging in monologue. Community engagement goes deep. 

It’s not meeting with someone or a group once, twice or even a dozen times. Community engagement is sustaining space, time and energy to consistently listen to multiple perspectives while remaining flexible and responsive. It is cultivating the ability to hear what parts of the picture we’re missing and getting wrong so we can both pick up and hand over paintbrushes in order to collaborate on the creation of a more complete vision. 

My path to becoming the inaugural Community Engagement Director for CAASE was forged by  20 years of experience in the arts, advocacy for survivors of sexual and domestic violence, and youth- and community-led development. It has prepared me to listen to people whose perspectives are often ignored and dismissed: victims and survivors of sexual harm. Over the next year, much of my time will focus on crafting spaces and strategies to listen more deeply to survivors. For example, we’ll hold feedback sessions where CAASE shares research with survivors so their perspectives can shape our policy efforts. I’m looking for places we can hold writing circles and performance opportunities that give survivors brave space to detail and document their experiences and insights while building community. I’m developing a podcast that will allow survivors, advocates, and service providers to discuss tactics and strategies for survival, gaps in existing systems, available resources, and long-term solutions. 

As CAASE addresses the incalculable impact of some of the most pervasive crimes on the planet, we want to be led by the expertise of people who’ve lived through sexual violation. How does our culture respond to sexual harm? What are the circumstances that allow it to occur? What can or should victims do to move forward? What policies or systemic changes are needed in Chicago and Illinois? Survivors bear the knowledge that’s critical to effectively responding to these questions. CAASE’s commitment to centering, affirming, and incorporating their voices and experiences will be made explicit by my work as it informs all we do. 

The ways that systemic oppressions intersect and interact to create conditions in which sexual harm flourishes, while survivors struggle, can never be exposed enough. Though I am a survivor of sexual and domestic violence, I don’t speak for all survivors nor do they speak for me. When we gather together, we speak to and with each other. We listen to what many find hard to hear. We tell what many find hard to say. We strive to become and remain brave. 

I hope those of you who’ve backed CAASE in the past are willing to support us in new ways as our community engagement efforts evolve and expand. There will be more opportunities to listen, to share, and to call us in so that our work may extend to more communities in deeper ways, in order to cultivate and sustain dialogue and insight. I invite you to go deep with us. Challenge what you think you know about people who’ve been sexually exploited and challenge us, too. This is an invitation to get brave: to really look at the impact of sexual harm so we can eradicate it for good. 

In community and engagement,

Nikki


6 NEW LAWS THAT SUPPORT SURVIVORS

7/1/19

After a busy legislative session, Governor J.B. Pritzker is signing a variety of bills into law. Many will help prevent sexual harm, support survivors, and promote reproductive justice in the State of Illinois. Here are the 6 we’re most excited about at CAASE:  

1. Consent must be taught in public schools- HB3550 - Passed both Houses 5/29/19

Teaching consent in schools is critical for sexual safety, and it encourages personal and social responsibility among students. HB3550 amends the school code so that sex education course material and instruction for grades 6-12 includes discussion of consent, defining it as freely given agreement to sexual activity. The bill also outlines further curriculum guidelines as to what does and does not constitute consent to ensure accuracy and consistency for students. CAASE is proud to share that our Policy Associate, Madeleine Behr, testified in Springfield in an effort to pass this bill. 

2. Prosecution of sexual assault can commence at any time after the offense- HB2135- Sent to Governor Pritzker 6/19/19

Victims of sexual violence may postpone reporting for a multitude of reasons including trauma, fear of retaliation, or feelings of shame. Once signed, this law will remove the statute of limitations for the prosecution of sex offenses for adult victims, allowing them to pursue justice when they are ready. Previously, prosecution of sexual assault could only occur within 10 years of the assault, if the victim reported the offense within three years of the incident. With HB2135’s amendment to the criminal code, prosecution for criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual assault, and aggravated criminal sexual abuse can occur at any time after the offense, so long as it occurred after the signing date. 

3. An officer must check with the prosecutor before executing a warrant in specific situations- HB92- Sent to Governor Pritzker 6/12/19

Victims of sexual harm who have an outstanding warrant may avoid reporting or seeking medical attention for their assault because they fear being arrested. To address this barrier, HB92 establishes a verification step for any officer who comes into contact with someone reporting they are a victim of sexual assault or requesting or receiving medical assistance or medical forensic services for sexual assault. If the officer is aware of an outstanding warrant for the victim, they must contact the prosecuting authority (unless the warrant results from a forcible felony, a violent crime, or an alleged violation of parole/ mandatory supervision) to request permission to issue a notice to appear in lieu of executing the warrant. This bill’s amendment of the criminal code will ultimately protect more survivors seeking medical treatment.

4. The Reproductive Health Act- SB25 - signed 6/12/19

The RHA establishes reproductive health as a fundamental right for every individual in Illinois. The law states that anyone who becomes pregnant has the right to continue the pregnancy or have an abortion. It also requires insurance to cover abortion as it would other medical procedures while removing penalties for doctors who perform abortions. Its passage was especially critical as other states are rolling back reproductive rights, setting the stage for challenges at the federal level. 

5. Pregnancy and Childbirth Rights- HB2- Passed both Houses 5/30/19

This bill establishes that every woman has certain rights in pregnancy and childbirth, including the right to receive care that is consistent with current evidence of the benefits and risks of various treatments and the right to choose one’s birth setting. The bill also ensures that regardless of race, class, or sexuality, women have the right to be treated with respect and have the right to a health care professional who is culturally competent. 

6. Improved Rights for Incarcerated Parents- HB2444- Passed both Houses 5/29/19

This bill states that the sentencing of defendants who are also parents shall take into account whether their child or infant’s well-being will be negatively affected by the parent’s absence. Withholding or minimizing sentences of incarceration will be favored if detaining the parent will harm their children. As a result, parents who are incarcerated—a disproportionate number of whom are survivors, poor, or people of color—will have more freedom to take care of their family. 

CAASE applauds the hard work of Illinois lawmakers who passed these crucial bills to help prevent sexual violence, protect survivors of sexual assault, and promote reproductive justice. We are grateful that our representatives are invested in protecting young students from sexual harm and that they are ensuring survivors have added protections and opportunities for justice. We especially thank the chief sponsors of these bills, Representatives Ann Williams, Kelly Cassidy, Mary Flowers, Yehiel Kalish, Keith Wheeler, and Senators Kimberley Lightford, Melinda Bush, Jacqueline Collins, Jason Barickman, and Linda Holmes. 


LEGALIZATION ISN’T AN ANTIDOTE TO PROSTITUTION’S HARMS 

6/17/19

A response to by Steve Chapman's June 7, 2019 opinion piece “Are Americans ready to legalize prostitution?” by Kaethe Morris Hoffer.

I've spent 25 years listening to and working with people who've been prostituted. Based on their hard-won knowledge, I find Steve Chapman's arguments in his recent column—which painted a pretty picture of the sex trade and analogized it to marijuana—hard to take.

The damage sex buyers do to the bodies, psyches, and lives of people in the sex trade make fentanyl or meth a better analogy than marijuana. Because while there are some people who choose to engage in sex work, and while a few come out of it unscathed, the evidence is clear: sex work isn’t safe. We can and should stop arresting those who sell sex, but legalizing what buyers do just makes the industry bigger and more profitable without addressing the harms of prostitution.

People in prostitution experience staggering levels of psychological and emotional trauma. Their rates of PTSD are higher than those of combat veterans. Drug and alcohol addiction isn’t typically a precursor to selling sex, but a common human response to unwanted sex and a means of dissociation and self-medication. Buyers are often men that disgust, scare, and hurt the people they pay to penetrate. One survivor-leader told me that during her many years in prostitution, she felt like men used her as if she was a toilet.

Making it legal for men to buy sex won’t make prostitution appealing or less traumatic for the majority of people who are bravely enduring the sex trade because they lack better options. It won’t undo the poverty and violence most are navigating. It will, however, incentivize businesses to enter the market—just imagine the money Amazon or Walmart could make with brothels. Corporations will work to increase demand and keep down labor costs, which will fuel the sex traffickers who provide supply. It will make prostitution seem like what it has never been: harmless, acceptable, and inevitable. Legalization is not a real solution.

Instead of legitimizing men's sexual access to the bodies of marginalized people, we should ask if Americans are ready to take prostitution’s inherent harms seriously. Are we ready to provide paths out of poverty? To stop criminalizing the most vulnerable people? To hold sex buyers accountable for the damage they do? To expand the liberation and dignity of humans, rather than liberating markets to commodify and exploit them? We need to be if we want real progress.


THANK YOU TO THE RACE FOR CAASE TEAM!

6/7/19

71 Race for CAASE team members crossed the finish line in the Race Against Gun Violence on June 6th. They pledged their run or walk and raised funds to support CAASE's cutting-edge Prevention Programs. Their commitment to ending sexual harm and diligent work fundraising resulted in a $31,500 boost toward educating young people to deter and prevent sexual harm.

CAASE is now within reach of our $40,000 goal! Build on the fantastic efforts of our team by helping us reach this milestone amount. You have until June 14th to donate. You'll be supporting vital sexual harm prevention work while doubling the impact of every dollar as your gift will be matched by the Greer Foundation.

Celebrate the team's accomplishment by donating today!

The 2019 Race for CAASE Team. Check out more photos here!

We are so grateful to everyone who has backed our team. Our runners, walkers, volunteers, and donors showed us amazing support and we know others will join them by the June 14th deadline. We want to especially thank this year's sponsors—Skadden, Monahan Law Group, Alliant, Porter Wright, Perkins Coie, New Ground, Katten, Alexander Movers, and VMaids—for giving our team the jump start they needed!

Strides for Peace, the organizer of the Race Against Gun Violence, also deserve our thanks. This is our second year in partnership with them and once again they did a wonderful job bringing together anti-violence organizations from across Chicago. By participating, CAASE honored its commitment to meeting survivors where they are—as people embedded in communities with unique, important concerns and priorities.

We'd also like to recognize our Race Team Committee members—Ross Neihaus, Marchant Johnson, Heather Urness, Sarah Crocker, Xenia Chiu, Caroline Jacoby, and Chloe Holt—for their efforts in making make this a successful event!

Remember, you have until June 14th to support the Race for CAASE Team. Help them reach their goal now!


CAASE HELPS FIND PATH FORWARD FOR SURVIVOR WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES

6/5/19

When Mia* was in her late 20’s, she entered a job training program for adults with developmental disabilities. It was an exciting opportunity to develop skills that would help her lead a healthy, productive and fulfilled life. Tragically, her experience provided exactly the opposite.

Over the course of two anguishing months, Mia's work supervisor repeatedly and violently sexually assaulted her. He would call her into his office to do “work” during her lunch hour. It was a ploy to seclude her from others so he could threaten and abuse her. Eventually, a concerned co-worker noticed bruising on Mia’s body and asked her about it. That’s when she bravely told him of the abuse. He encouraged Mia to report what was happening to a different supervisor. When she summoned the strength to disclose the rapes to a female superior, they failed her. No one called Mia’s caretaker. No one called the police. The violence was ignored.

Shortly thereafter, Mia's family learned about the abuse. She went to the hospital, endured a rape kit and reported to the police. Again, people failed her. Law enforcement did not make an arrest or bring charges against her abuser.

The traumatic impact and emotional distress this abuse has caused Mia and her family cannot be overstated and it will most certainly continue to affect them for the rest of their lives. While CAASE attorneys could not undo the horrors Mia experienced, they could help her reclaim some of her power and amplify her voice via legal options open to her.

Attorney Karen Doran, a participant in CAASE’s Pro Bono Project, and CAASE attorney Rachel Johnson represented Mia in filing a complaint against the employer. They were able to come to a favorable settlement which will allow Mia to live comfortably and engage in enriching activities to help her overcome the trauma. This settlement also enabled Mia to avoid the difficult and often re-traumatizing trial process.

Rachel and Karen skillfully assisted Mia in meeting the conditions of the settlement, too. They obtained a pro bono psychologist to conduct an evaluation for guardianship and connected Mia to a guardianship attorney. They also identified a Special Needs Trust and trustees who specialize in working with people with disabilities to ensure her settlement was protected and that she was able to continue to receive much-needed government benefits. Additionally, Karen identified a loan to assist Mia’s family with the guardianship fees.

Mia is now able to move forward in safety and security. CAASE is grateful to everyone who helped achieve this favorable outcome, especially pro bono attorney Karen Doran, Legal Assistance Foundation, Chicago Legal Clinic, and Illinois Disability Pooled Trust.  

You can learn more about CAASE’s Pro Bono Project and Legal Services on our website.

*The client’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.


CAASE FACILITATES REAL CONVERSATIONS ABOUT CONSENT—Something students crave 

5/2/19

CAASE’s Prevention Program, which encourages youth to become allies in ending sexual harm, is in the final stretch of another busy academic year. We partnered with 5 new schools and added a fifth session to our signature curriculum, Empowering Youth to End Sexual Exploitation. The revamped program puts more emphasis on consent, highlighting a variety of relationships and situations. It challenges students to think about consent beyond what may be illegal and instead as a necessity for healthy sexual interactions.

By spending more time with students and increasing the number of youth we’ve educated this year, CAASE has learned even more about how we can best engage and teach young people. One of our biggest takeaways is that the topic of “consent” needs to be central to any discourse about sexual harm and healthy sex education. It’s evident that youth are craving real, authentic discussions about sex. This fact is reflected in the overwhelmingly positive feedback we’ve received from students and teachers about our consent workshop. The conversations it generates have been met with interest, curiosity, and maturity. We’re so thrilled to have the privilege to facilitate this dialogue, and we’re impressed every day by students’ insightful contributions to the content.

Here’s what students are saying in response to the additional content on consent:

  • “The whole section of consent was important to me. I got a whole different perspective now and I know I have to be sure of my answer.”
  • “The information we had on consent stood out the most to me - sometimes people are manipulated into saying yes, but we should make sure they actually want to.”
  • “Just because the situation isn’t illegal, doesn’t mean it is consensual. I know to ask for consent so that I don’t hurt someone I care about.”

It’s not just students that are interested in learning about consent. Our single-session workshop on the topic was requested more than any other by teachers and administrators. In fact, we facilitated it 59 times! Our Prevention Programs have received incredible support from our partner schools, and we’re going to keep this momentum going so that youth can be empowered to eliminate sexual harm in all its forms.

If you’re interested in requesting our Empowering Young Men/Young Women to End Sexual Exploitation series or any of our single-session workshops, please contact our Prevention Education Manager Shalini Mirpuri at smirpuri@caase.org. Our Prevention programs are already in high demand for the 2019-2020 academic year, so be sure to make your request early!

Want to support the incredible work of our Prevention Program?  Make a donation to the Race for CAASE Team today. Better yet, join us on the course June 7th! Learn more.


INCARCERATION IMPACTS FAMILIES - INCLUDING SURVIVORS’

4/9/19

Many victims of sexual harm have interactions with the criminal justice system apart from their victimization. They often find themselves as defendants. In fact, 70 to 90% of incarcerated women have been abused physically, sexually or emotionally. Experts say this frequently leads to their imprisonment because survivors’ trauma reactions and survival strategies are criminalized. It’s one of many ways the criminal justice system fails survivors. It also fails society when it’s overly punitive, unfocused on rehabilitation, and frequently incarcerating people for crimes of poverty.

Supporting survivors means pushing the criminal justice system to be fair and restorative. CAASE understands the links between sexual harm and incarceration. That’s why we support the Children’s Best Interest Act. The bipartisan bill would require courts to consider the impact of a parent’s incarceration on a child, or on elderly or ill family members if the defendant serves as a caretaker.

Studies show how adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) such as parental incarceration can impact a child’s development, and hinder them as adults with a greater likelihood of poor mental and physical health outcomes. Considering these facts, it’s important to pass this bill which allows criminal defendants to present a family impact statement during sentencing hearings. It could include testimony from family and community members, as well as other documentation. The court would also be specifically required to consider factors like:

  • Whether the child is still breastfeeding
  • Whether the child is school age
  • Whether the parent plays a role in the educational and medical needs of a child
  • How the parent contributes financially to the child’s well-being

This law would step us closer toward a system that recognizes the humanity of defendants—who are disproportionately poor people of color—and the repercussions incarceration will have on their families.

So far, the bill has passed the Illinois House with strong bipartisan support and is now waiting to move through the Senate. It is sponsored by Rep. Kelly Cassidy, and Sen. Jacqueline Y. Collins. You can encourage your senators support, too! Urge them to back HB 2444 with a quick call or email today.

Be sure to follow @theCAASE on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to stay up to date on advocacy actions.


4 BIG WAYS ESSL BILL SUPPORTS K-12 SURVIVORS

4/9/19

Proposed regulation changes to Title IX, a federal law that protects against gender discrimination in education, are poised to cause further harm to student survivors of sexual violence. Illinois lawmakers can do something about it. They have a chance to enshrine K-12 student survivors’ rights in state law this spring.

The Ensuring Success in School Law (ESSL or SB 449 SA 1) would guarantee that K-12 students who are survivors of gender-based violence, parents, or expectant parents can stay in school, stay safe, and complete their education. The law would allow excused absences related to these circumstances, provide personnel to help advocate for students and connect them to resources, and create confidentiality protocols to keep students safe. The bill would, among other actions:

  1. Ensure school boards and leaders consider a student’s victimization as a mitigating factor should they consider disciplining or expelling a student survivor. Penalizing students reacting to trauma is counterproductive. A student’s circumstances should be considered when making disciplinary decisions.
  2. Prohibit schools from requiring a student survivor to “working it out” with their perpetrator. Forced mediation causes more trauma. Schools shouldn’t be allowed to make students engage in a potentially harmful process.
  3. Develop a complaint resolution procedure for when a student reports victimization by a peer to school officials. School staff often feel uncertain about what they should do if a student were to report abuse to them. A clear procedure would help clarify each staff member’s role and ensure that disclosures are handled properly.
  4. Create a civil remedy for survivors should schools not follow ESSL when addressing a student survivor’s needs and safety while in school. Allowing students to bring a civil case provides a much-needed mechanism for holding schools accountable.

Sexual violence on college campuses has garnered a lot of media and political attention. That same focus is needed to address harm in secondary and primary schools. 1 in 4 girls experiences sexual violence before age 18 and survivors tend to have lower rates of high school graduation. A law like ESSL would add critical protections and supports for K-12 students in Illinois. This is especially critical at a time when survivor protections are being destabilized at the federal level.

CAASE enthusiastically backs ESSL. We have collaborated with a wide group of partners in recent months in support of the law. These allies include the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law (leader of the effort), the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center, Resilience (formerly Rape Victim Advocates), Life Span, A Long Walk Home, LAF, and more.

The bill needs your support! Call your State Representative and urge them to support survivors by backing the Ensuring Success in School Law (ESSL). Dial 217-782-2000 to be connected or look up your rep's info here. Be sure to follow @theCAASE on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to stay up to date on advocacy opportunities.


NEW STAFF, SPACE, AND CAPABILITIES

3/6/19

A year ago, our staff and Board of Directors were busy at a strategic planning retreat. We spent the day in deep reflection and discussion as we collectively envisioned CAASE’s course for the next several years. The retreat was one step in planning our organization’s future—a process that spanned months. Today, we are seeing the results of our efforts coming to life as we progress toward the goals we set for 2018-2021.

Our ambitious plan requires resources. A new development position was needed to focus on individual giving and fundraising events. We hired Natalie Richards to take on these efforts as our Development Manager, Special Events and Donor Relations. We also created an Administrative Associate position and brought on Dauren Augustine. She provides excellent support to our development team and all other departments.

Our Board of Directors is also enriching their capabilities. They are strengthening the functionality of committees and assisting in solidifying CAASE’s identity. Currently, board members are working with staff as we define and articulate our guiding principles and values. The outcome will help prioritize our positions and increase the public's understanding of the philosophies that motivate our work.

Another major part of the plan is to become more accountable to survivors and those most at risk of sexual harm. It’s an area of CAASE’s work that’s full of opportunity. So, to tackle this objective, we created the new Community Engagement Director position. We are on the verge of welcoming an outstanding person into this role and look forward to seeing how their dedicated leadership will improve our engagement with people experiencing intersecting vulnerabilities in Chicago.

Above: Managing Attorney Mallory Littlejohn in her new office.

Perhaps the most visible sign of CAASE’s growth is our expanded space. To accommodate increases in capacity and staff, we acquired a second suite on our current floor. It nearly doubled our footprint and provides offices for our growing team. We now have an area large enough for all employees to gather together for meetings. Plus, the new suite gives us the ability to host trainings, community groups, and small events.   

In less than a year since the 2018-2021 Strategic Plan’s implementation, CAASE is excelling toward meeting many of our goals. We are proud of our achievements and so thankful to have your support along the way! You can stay updated and informed about our continued progress toward ending sexual harm in Chicago by subscribing to our newsletter and following us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


CHICAGO’S YOUTH NEED MAYORAL LEADERSHIP TO END SEXUAL HARM

2/22/19

We’re just weeks away from a crucial mayoral election but finger-pointing about which candidate is closest to Ed Burke, Danny Solis, or Rahm Emanuel is distracting attention from a critical safety issue impacting kids: How will Chicago’s next mayor deal with sexual violence against youth in our community?

Last summer, in its riveting series “Betrayed”, the Chicago Tribune exposed Chicago Public School’s deliberate indifference to hundreds of students who endured sexual harm. In unflinching detail, the reporting revealed overlapping systemic failures: front-line teachers who failed to inform DCFS when a student disclosed sexual abuse, teachers and coaches who perpetrated abuse, and inadequate safety and investigative measures after harm was discovered.

Sexual abuse is a widespread problem across our country, and our city can’t afford a leader who ignores what happens to kids on their turf. Research indicates that one in 10 children will experience sexual violence before turning 18, and studies find that 68 percent of surveyed girls and 55 percent of boys endure at least one episode of sexual harassment in high school alone. It is imperative that Chicago’s next mayor take their obligation to deal with this issue seriously. They must come into office prepared to equip schools and other organizations serving youth in our community with knowledge and skills that can effectively prevent, quickly uncover, and appropriately respond to all forms of sexual harm.

As a collective of organizations working to improve Chicago’s response to and prevention of sexual harm against youth, we are deeply concerned that none of the mayoral candidates has prioritized talking about their plans for ensuring that CPS—along with private and charter schools in Chicago—continues the hard work of reforming bad practices, implementing quality prevention and investigative programs, and redressing wrongs already perpetrated. Nor has any candidate outlined a comprehensive city-wide strategy to address what can only be classified as a public health crisis. Sexual violation results in long-lasting and wide-reaching emotional and psychological harm. Its impact rivals that of gun violence. Yet, sexual harm receives far less attention from our leaders. Approximately 2,500 cases of sexual harm against children are actually reported each year to authorities in Chicago (compared to the almost 2,400 shooting incidents involving victims of any age in 2018), and it is undisputed that many (if not most) instances of child sexual abuse are never brought to light.

The federal government has duties to ensure that educational institutions properly respond to sexual harassment and assault, but with President Trump and Secretary Betsy DeVos overhauling that system and cutting protections, Chicago parents and students need to look closer to home. What will the next mayor do? We don’t know. Less than a third of the 14 candidate’s websites acknowledge the problem of sexual violence against students, and even fewer have policy platforms that address the issues raised in the Tribune series.

Mayoral candidates must put forth plans for dealing with the sexual violation of students, and they must continue to address the crisis at CPS, going beyond the progress that has already been made to resolve the issues that have been exposed. Their plans need to be comprehensive and prioritize multi-session curricula for adults working with youth and age-appropriate prevention education for students. Children deserve access to education that recognizes and protects their dignity and to systems capable of preventing, identifying, and responding effectively to all forms of sexual harm. In addition, students whose education teaches them how to see, prevent, and remedy sexual harassment will be better equipped as adults to prevent and address sexual violation in the workplace and everywhere else it occurs.

The mayor has power over CPD, CPS, the park district, the library system, while funding and influencing a myriad of other social services for children. With this power, Chicago’s Mayor could ensure that preventing and addressing sexual abuse is a priority for all of these organizations. For now, it is on us, as a community, to demand that any new administration commit significant political capital and institutional effort towards addressing sexual violation against our youth. We can collectively insist that any new administration become a national leader in making the prevention of sexual harm against children a priority, one that is woven into the fabric of the City’s implementation of ALL services to children. The first step is asking every Mayoral candidate: What will YOU do?

This piece was authored by the Executive Directors of the anti-sexual violence organizations which founded the Chicago Prevention Alliance (CPA). The mission of CPA is to create, promote and facilitate the implementation and institutionalization of a diverse array of educational tools and practices that prevent acts of sexual harm against, or by, youth.

Kaethe Morris Hoffer of Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation
Char Rivette of Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center
Erin Walton of Resilience (formerly Rape Victim Advocates)


 

SOLIS BETRAYED VULNERABLE WOMEN IN CHICAGO, NOT CITY COUNCIL

2/6/19

Following news that Alderman Daniel Solis was gifted with sex acts and wore a wire for an anti-corruption investigation, members of City Council expressed dismay—over his cooperation with the feds! One alderman said “where I come from, if you wear a wire someone’s going to kick your ass.” Such responses belie deeply rooted political corruption, but the real outrage is that Solis furthered the sexual exploitation of racially marginalized and low-income women in Chicago.

Above: Ald. Danny Solis (25th) | Sun-Times file photo

Alderman Solis does not dispute that he was a customer of sex acts financed by Roberto Caldero, who represented a local group with significant city business. As captured by a 2015 federal wiretap, Solis inquired of Caldero “I want to get a good massage, with a nice ending. Do you know any good places?” and, after Caldero promised he’d make the arrangements for Solis at a local massage parlor, Solis asked “What kind of women do they got there?” “Asian,” said Caldero. To which Solis replied “Oh good. Good, good, good. I like Asian.”

Solis’ casual racism and gendered objectification is disgusting, but racism and sexism are routinely tolerated elements of prostitution. Contrary to the myth that prostitution is a “victimless crime” are the facts: most prostituted people are survivors of child sexual abuse facing extreme poverty; disproportionately girls and women of color, most don’t want to provide oral, vaginal, or anal sex to random men, but are enduring circumstances you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy; prostitution is rarely a path out of poverty, and often leads to drug addiction, because self-medication is a normal human response to being repeatedly sexually invaded by men you neither choose nor desire.

Solis and his erstwhile pimp Coldero epitomize what all prostituted people have in common (beyond profound courage and resilience). They are the lifeblood of the sex trade, the “demand” side of the industry: men with disposable income and social privilege; men who mostly have girlfriends or wives; men who willfully ignore evidence that prostitution is rarely a choice; men who manifest utter disregard for the people from whom they get their “happy endings.”

Numerous local organizations and survivor leaders have spent years educating City Council about the realities and intersecting challenges of prostitution and sex trafficking in Chicago. Aldermen should understand that prostitution occurring in “massage parlors” often involves victims of sex trafficking, who are frequently Asian immigrants constrained by language, violence, threats, financial debt, immigration document confiscation or threats of deportation. City Council has, in fact, recognized both the toxic role that buyers play in prostitution and the connection between prostitution in the massage industry and sex trafficking. In 2018, the City Council approved an ordinance that increased fines and penalties for sex-buyers while decreasing those for people who sell sex, while a 2017 ordinance increased penalties for operators of illegal massage businesses.

Political corruption in Chicago is certainly a newsworthy crisis, but we desperately need more conversation about the ways that men like Solis hurt racially marginalized and financially desperate women and girls caught up in the sex trade. Buyers of sex impose staggering levels of violence on people in prostitution, but even non-violent customers are culpable because the very act of buying sex fuels an industry that uses force, fraud, and coercion to populate its ranks.

Most men never purchase sex, and no Alderman ever should. But for now, every member of City Council ought to reckon with the fact that Alderman Solis’s primary victims are not the colleagues who unknowingly had their conversations tape-recorded, but the vulnerable girls and women currently enduring prostitution (and often sex trafficking) in our city.


 

TOGETHER, WE CAN GET CANDIDATES TALKING ABOUT GENDER ISSUES 

2/4/19

Gender-based violence happens in all communities—Chicago is no exception. Its universality means we can all play a role in preventing it. This is especially true of those who serve in public offices. They have the ability to introduce and pass laws, decide what policies and protocols are implemented, determine what social services are available and to whom, shape what our children are taught in schools, and more. That political power can have a big impact when it comes to addressing sexual harm and issues that intersect with it.

With this in mind, CAASE felt it was imperative to engage voters in making informed decisions about candidates in two major elections within four months: Illinois attorney general in November 2018 (which you can read about here) and the upcoming Chicago mayoral election on February 26, 2019. Thankfully, we are not alone in our sentiment or in our efforts. We banded together with fellow Chicago-based organizations to form coalitions to increase our impact and perspective in pressing politicians to discuss and develop smart plans to curb gender-based violence in our community.

During the current race for Chicago mayor, CAASE worked with anti-gender violence experts at The Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women's Network, Resilience, Life Span, and The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law to ask mayoral candidates about their plans and priorities for the issues we care about most. Many of the topics put forth in the questionnaire have been absent from the candidates' platforms and not prioritized as talking points. They are even missing from the discourse in the multitude of forums that have been held throughout the city, making it even more critical that we bring them to the forefront.

For example, candidates are not talking about how they will address sexual abuse within schools—despite in-depth reporting by the Chicago Tribune detailing CPS’s failures to protect students. They are quiet on domestic violence and leave it out of conversations about crime in our city, even though data analysis shows that domestic violence homicides generally account for ten percent of the overall homicide rate. They are silent on funding social services to assist survivors of sexual abuse, domestic violence, and human trafficking. The list goes on.

These issues impact the wellbeing of all citizens and it’s unacceptable for candidates to dodge them as they run for our city’s highest office. Statements made during campaigning can serve as a baseline for accountability once a new mayor takes office, so our coalition directly asked each candidate to explain what they will do about these concerns. Our efforts are doubly rewarded when Chicago voters take these responses into account when making voting decisions for February 26. We hope you will spend some time looking over the questionnaires and share them broadly. And then, join us in continuing to press mayoral candidates on these points as we advance toward election day.

Check out and tag the candidates on Twitter! 

The questionnaire was prepared and presented by:

Anti-violence Organizations
 
Need to register to vote or want to make sure you are correctly registered? Click here. You may also register at early voting locations or at your precinct polling place on election day Feb. 26th.
 

 

1/10/19

A new year always invites reflection. As we look back, CAASE has a lot to be proud of! In 2018, CAASE provided legal services to hundreds of survivors, empowered thousands of Chicago youth through prevention programs, successfully advocated for public policies that will reduce sexual harm, and engaged with the greater community on issues related to sexual violation. Check out our work and progress over the past calendar year on our annual "2018: Year at a Glance".


6 PROPOSED TITLE IX REGULATIONS THAT WOULD HARM K-12 STUDENTS - and What You Can Do About It

In 2011 and 2014, the Obama administration published guidance documents regarding how education institutions should address sexual misconduct in schools in order to comply with Title IX. Under the Trump administration, the U.S. Department of Education withdrew that guidance in September 2017 and replaced it with new recommendations for schools to follow while the U.S. Department of Education prepared to institute more permanent regulations.

On November 16, 2018, the Department of Education published proposed policies on sexual misconduct in schools that rollback much of the guidance that directed schools to appropriately address it. Unlike the guidance issued by previous administrations, the regulations will be mandatory for schools to follow. Fortunately, before the regulations are finalized, the rulemaking process allows the public an opportunity to comment on it, and the Department must respond to those comments. CAASE will comment and press the Department of Education to reverse their harmful, backward positions. We urge you to make your voice heard, too.

Here’s what you need to know about some of the proposed policy changes and
how they would affect K-12 students in Illinois.

1. K-12 students would be most impacted

Much of the national conversation regarding Title IX and sexual assault has centered on colleges and universities, but these new policies would have a harmful impact on K-12 students as well. Illinois has a state law called Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education which provides colleges and universities with a baseline for responding to sexual misconduct. However, the state lacks such a law addressing sexual misconduct in K-12 schools where it’s also alarmingly common, as documented by the Chicago Tribune. As a result, the new federal regulations will govern how the state’s primary and secondary schools handle these cases.

2. Students may face repeated and escalating sexual harassment before the school has any duty to respond

Under the proposed regulations, schools would be allowed to ignore cases of sexual harassment that are not sexual assault until the harassed student has been denied equal access to their education, such as being forced to miss classes or drop out of school. Students may experience many wide-ranging, negative effects of sexual harassment before a school recognizes that they are being denied access to education. If a school is only required to address cases of harassment that deny a student’s access to education, students would be forced to endure repeated and escalating levels of abuse before they are able to receive help from their schools.

The proposed definition of sexual harassment also requires more severe and persistent sexual conduct than Title VII’s definition of sexual harassment in the workplace. This will create the disturbing and senseless effect of children being forced to endure more severe sexual harassment in schools than adults have to experience in the workplace before any action is legally required to stop it.

3. Schools would have no responsibility for responding to students in many sexual assault incidents

Much of the sexual misconduct suffered by students does not take place at school. Yet, the new regulations would only hold schools responsible for investigating incidents that take place on their grounds or during a school activity. This is a departure from guidance from the Bush and Obama administrations strongly suggesting that schools investigate complaints regardless of where an incident took place. Under the proposed policy, when a student is assaulted by a classmate at an off-campus location such as a friend’s house or a party, the school would actually be required to dismiss the survivor’s complaint under Title IX and would have no obligation to investigate or take any action whatsoever.

When a school does not initiate an investigation, a student victim may have no choice but to continue seeing their assailant each day in class, in the hallways, and in the lunchroom. Feeling forced to share space with their assailant can further traumatize a victim and severely hinder their ability to focus and learn. Harmful situations such as these would fly in the face of Title IX’s purpose to provide an equal opportunity to education.

4. Reporting sexual misconduct to a trusted guidance counselor, nurse, or coach likely not enough to require the school to act

In order to comply with previous recommendations, including the interim guidance issued by the current administration in 2017, a school was required to respond if it knew or reasonably should have known about possible sexual misconduct. The proposed regulations would only hold institutions legally responsible for investigating and responding to formal complaints made to a Title IX “official who has the authority to institute corrective measures.” While teachers at K-12 schools will fall under this category, it is unclear which other school employees -- including coaches, teacher’s aides, guidance counselors, and nurses -- will be considered the proper “officials”.

Under the new rules, if a student tells a trusted school employee that they have been assaulted and that adult is not such an official, the school would have no duty to investigate the complaint. This policy would reduce liability for schools and make it easier for them to avoid addressing - or even cover up - sexual misconduct. It would also place all of the responsibility on students to tell the correct official and place blame on them if they report their assault to the ‘wrong’ staff member.

5. Student victims may be pressured into ‘talking it out’ with their assailant

If a school does respond to a complaint, the proposed regulations would allow it to facilitate a mediation, instead of engaging in a formal disciplinary process, if the parties agree to it. Informal resolution procedures such as mediation were considered inappropriate under Bush and Obama administration guidance. Because of the power dynamics between students and school administrators, it’s difficult to ensure participation in mediation is truly voluntary. Some students may wish to go through an informal resolution, but many may feel they don’t have the option or the autonomy to say no when a school official asks them to agree to mediation. It’s easy to imagine how a student victim may be further traumatized by facing their assailant during mediation under these circumstances.

Schools might also use mediation as a way to avoid investigating sexual misconduct or making a decision regarding sanctions. By foregoing an investigation, a school dodges the important process of determining whether a student assailant has created a hostile environment or is a potential threat to other students. This does a disservice to the survivor and the rest of the school community.

6. Survivors may have to present a higher level of evidence than victims of bullying, racism, or other student conduct violations

Previous guidance recommended that schools use a standard known as “preponderance of the evidence” in determining if sexual misconduct took place. It means the evidence must show it’s more likely than not that the accused committed the violation. It is the standard used to determine all kinds of student misconduct violations - from plagiarism to vandalism to bullying. It is also the standard used in most civil cases in Illinois.

Under the proposed changes, schools may be required to impose a higher evidentiary standard known as “clear and convincing” - meaning it’s substantially more likely than not that sexual misconduct occurred. It’s a more difficult standard to meet and schools would be forced to use it unless they employ the preponderance standard for other misconduct violations that may end in the same level of discipline AND for complaints against school faculty or staff. Raising the standard of proof would make it even more difficult for student victims of sexual misconduct to get justice or accountability in their cases.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Support Initiatives from Student Advocacy Groups

Allies are working to keep sex discrimination out of education. Learn more about their work and support their efforts.

  • Stop Sexual Assault in Schools: provides students, K-12 schools, and organizations resources so that the right to an equal education is not compromised by sexual harassment, sexual assault, and gender discrimination.
  • Know Your IX: a survivor- and youth-led project of Advocates for Youth that aims to empower students to end sexual and dating violence in their schools.
  • End Rape On Campus: Working to end campus sexual violence through direct support for survivors and their communities; prevention through education; and policy reform at the campus, local, state, and federal levels.

Support K-12 Protections in Illinois

Our state has the Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act which codified into state law some of the guidance previous administrations had made in regards to sexual misconduct in schools. The act provides protections for college students, but sexual harassment, abuse, and assault are not limited to higher education. We are advocating for the Ensuring Student Success Law which would extend similar protections to primary and secondary students in Illinois regardless of changes to Federal regulations related to sex discrimination. Follow CAASE on Twitter and Facebook to learn more about the bill and how to contact your state legislators.


PREVENTION PROGRAMS REVAMPED

The Prevention Department saw some big changes this summer. CAASE hired a new Prevention Manager, Shalini Mirpuri, and a new Educator, Jose Corea. With fresh eyes on our curriculum, we spent the summer revising our signature programs, Empowering Young Men and Empowering Young Women, in order to maintain cultural relevance for our students.

Now that the school year has begun, CAASE educators are engaging students in discussions about gender inequality, while also delving into topics identified as critical during the curricula revamp - including taking a new, in-depth look at consent, the commercial sex trade, and broader systems of oppression that lead to violence against women and marginalized populations. The curriculum has been expanded to five-sessions to provide ample time for discourse and awareness-building activities that will lead to the cultural shifts necessary to end rape culture.

Empowering youth to be allies for gender justice is at the heart of the Prevention Department’s work. It starts with equipping students with the skills and knowledge needed to bring about change. Our partners have noticed this as well. #MeToo is a primary topic of conversation and schools are looking for supplemental education that doesn’t shy away from difficult discussions. Students are longing for this, too. They continue to surprise us every day with their maturity, interest, and passion for ending sexual harm. They’re seeking meaningful and impactful ways to change the norms so that they can build a safer world for everyone. It’s an honor to assist them on this journey!

The recent growth of the Prevention Department comes with endless opportunities for the growth of our students. In addition to maintaining our numerous school partnerships, CAASE is making strides to work with youth in other venues like park districts, art centers, and libraries. We hope to inspire young people to think beyond the possibilities of their classrooms and imagine how they can eliminate violence and harm from their entire community.

To learn more about CAASE's prevention programs, visit our website. You can also read about and request workshops here.


CELEBRATING ACTIVISM RAISES MORE MONEY THAN EVER BEFORE

On October 18, we had a wonderful evening at Celebrating Activism. The annual cocktail reception recognizes CAASE’s work improving laws, educating allies, and championing survivors of sexual violation in Chicago while seeking funds to bolster our work. 145 attendees along with sponsors and donors showed their generous support, raising $38,496 - a record-breaking amount for the fall event - to help CAASE continue in our mission to end sexual harm. 

Celebrating Activism also gives us an opportunity to praise the work of allies in the movement. This year, we honored Karla Altmayer and Sheerine Alemzadeh, co-founders and co-directors of Healing to Action, with Outstanding Activist Awards. Their organization supports worker leaders in developing meaningful responses to gender violence in their communities.

Healing to Action is the first organization in the country to address the needs of workers across industries who are facing sexual violence and economic instability. It is also the anchoring organization to the Coalition Against Workplace Sexual Violence – of which CAASE is a member. Karla and Sheerine’s activism has created the space and provided the tools necessary for workers to access the power that is already inside of them and cast it out into the world, together.

See more photos from the night!

While guests joined us in celebrating Karla and Sheerine, they enjoyed delicious hors d'oeuvres and signature cocktails. They were moved by a poetic performance from Cherlnell Lane and deeply touched by a speech from Adam Swanson, a former CAASE legal services client. The two helped illustrate the impact that sexual violation can have on a survivor’s life while illuminating how support can have a tremendous impact on the healing process.

We are so grateful to all those who supported Celebrating Activism and cannot wait to host the event again next year. The generous backing of our sponsors, including Skadden, Mayer Brown, Boomerang Information Services, Motorola Solutions, Corboy & Demetrio, United, Strategic Talent Solutions, MB Financial Bank, and Tito’s Handmade Vodka, coupled with attendees’ contributions is a compelling testament to the power of our community to join together to end sexual harm.

If you would like to support CAAES’s work, please consider making a donation.


AG CANDIDATES' RESPOND TO QUESTIONNAIRE ON GENDER VIOLENCE

Sexual and domestic violence is epidemic throughout Chicago and our state, affecting people from all walks of life. Because the Illinois Attorney General’s Office has wide-ranging authority in the implementation and enforcement of policies addressing these issues, leaders and anti-violence experts from six Chicago-based organizations, including CAASE, asked our AG candidates to complete a questionnaire about their plans for the following and more:

  • Ensuring colleges and universities comply with the Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act
  • Managing the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program
  • Providing training and seminars to law enforcement regarding gender-based violence
  • Administering the Violent Crime Victims Assistance Fund and the Domestic Violence Fund

We received responses from Erika Harold and Kwame Raoul. We hope the candidates' responses will help inform your vote for the Nov. 6 election.

Harold's Reply
Raoul's Reply

The questionnaire was prepared and presented by:


Want more help deciding who you will support during the Nov. 6th election? Learn about candidates at vote411 or BallotReadyNot sure if you are registered or still need to? Click here.


CONVICTION OF JASON VAN DYKE MARKS WATERSHED MOMENT FOR CHICAGO

10/5/18

Today Officer Jason Van Dyke was convicted of second degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery for the 2014 police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. In a world where it remains uncommon for police officers to be held accountable for the harm they cause, especially to black and brown communities, the outcome of this case marks a watershed moment for Chicago. We are hopeful that today's verdict is a demonstration of a new commitment within society to the fact that black lives matter.

People who have lived through sexual violation are all too familiar with the justice system failing to operate justly. Like our city’s communities of color, the survivors have a well-found distrust of police and they too are often ignored, disbelieved, and silenced. Together through civic engagement and peaceful protest, however, we can shift the priorities of our government and create meaningful and lasting change. Indeed, these actions are likely why Van Dyke was ever charged in the first place. We stand with Chicago’s black and brown communities as they continue to raise their voices and demand accountability for the violence perpetrated against them.


DEMANDING A FAIR CONFIRMATION PROCESS

10/4/18

As attorneys and advocates for survivors of sexual harm, we are deeply disappointed by the process the Senate is using to continually advance Judge Brett Kavanaugh towards a seat on the Supreme Court. Our opposition to his confirmation is not based on partisan political philosophy or in our expectations about his future positions. It is rooted in our belief that survivors deserve to be heard, fairly and fully.

The Senate’s refusal to direct the FBI to conduct a full background investigation was disrespectful not only to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez, but all survivors who have bravely spoken up. They do so at great risk to themselves, often facing lasting consequences for telling the truth. The Senate has signaled to them, and those who have not yet shared their experience of sexual harm, that the risk is not worth it. That their pain and the damaging actions of their abusers don’t matter.

Some argue that Kavanaugh deserves the benefit of the doubt, is innocent until proven guilty, or that the allegations have not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Those of us who are attorneys understand that none of those standards ought to apply. The confirmation hearings were not a criminal trial, but a chance to determine whether Kavanaugh has demonstrated his suitability to serve for a lifetime on the Supreme Court. His unprofessional, dishonest, partisan testimony should have been enough to disqualify him from a position that requires integrity, impartiality, and an even temperament.

Photograph by Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg / Getty

The legitimacy of our country’s highest court is at stake. Determining whether someone should serve as a Justice is one of the Senate’s most impactful decisions, with far-reaching and long-lasting consequences. Whoever is confirmed will determine many of our fundamental rights and protections - from options involving our healthcare to criminal justice standards to discrimination in the workplace and schools. Judge Brett Kavanaugh has shown us he is unfit for this appointment. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez have told us. His former classmates and peers have, too. Now it’s time to tell our Senators to vote ‘no’ on his confirmation.


WITHHOLDING FUNDS WON’T PROTECT CPS STUDENTS FROM SEXUAL ABUSE

10/2/18

On Friday, the Chicago Tribune reported that the Department of Education will be withholding millions of dollars in federal grant money from Chicago Public Schools. A letter explaining the suspension of funds cites “serious and pervasive violations under Title IX”, the federal law intended to protect students from gender-based discrimination, including sexual abuse and harassment. We agree with the Department’s analysis - CPS has a history of severe, systemic failures - but their response is flawed and counter-productive.

As an organization with attorneys who represent CPS and local college students who have experienced sexual violation, we have brought many Title IX complaints to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) within the Department of Education.  Unfortunately, the Department rarely upholds the promise of Title IX. In fact, this is the first time in our collective memory that OCR has instituted any meaningful consequences to a Chicagoland institution.

While we are encouraged that the Department of Education has finally acknowledged how systemic failures to deal with sexual violation is a serious problem, withholding money from CPS will NOT produce the cultural and systematic change that is needed. Rather, CPS needs more resources for investigating and processing Title IX cases, for supporting and accommodating survivors, and for preventing sexual abuse in the first place. We worry that this extraordinarily rare step by the Department of Education is simply misdirection designed to distract attention from the coming release of proposed changes to Title IX regulations: it has been widely reported that the Trump Administration supports weakening Title IX to such a degree that neither of the cases outlined in the Tribune article would merit a school investigation.

When government institutions falter in performing their duties, oversight may be the best response. In Chicago, there's certainly precedent for it. Two years ago, on the eve of the Trump administration taking over, the Department of Justice found widespread systemic failures in the Chicago Police Department. When the federal government chose not to pursue CPD accountability for that report, Illinois’ Attorney General led the CPD into negotiations resulting in a consent decree that promises to bring needed change to Chicago. Similarly, after CPS was found to have failed its students with disabilities, the state required it to submit to an independent monitor.

CPS’s failure to protect students from sexual harm and to respond appropriately also merits an independent monitor. Maggie Hickey’s preliminary report on how CPS can improve on these issues is helpful, but there is no guarantee CPS will meaningfully implement any of the suggestions she outlined. We also appreciate many of the bills introduced in the General Assembly in the wake of the Tribune’s “Betrayed” series, but broader, more sweeping changes are needed. Let’s put the momentum of these revelations to good use!

We can start by closely monitoring CPS, a move likely to help bring it into good standing - but these issues exist in districts across Illinois. So, let’s codify current Title IX protections for K-12 students into state law because safeguards against discrimination in education shouldn't depend on who is in the oval office. Additionally, we should give survivors an individual remedy for pursuing school accountability because (as their failures have proven) students cannot rely on the Attorney General or the Department of Education to enforce their rights.

We’ll be lobbying our legislators in the next session in hopes of advancing these solutions. We hope you will join us.


 

HONORING OUR PRO BONO PARTNERS

9/6/18

Through CAASE’s Pro Bono Project, private firm attorneys work on behalf of local survivors of sexual assault and sex trafficking. CAASE attorneys asses clients’ legal needs and eligibility for services, link them with trained pro bono attorneys, and provide ongoing support and mentorship to pro bono attorneys representing CAASE-referred clients. Each year we hold an event to share our appreciation for the hard work and successes of the firms and pro bono attorneys who dedicate their time and energy to survivors of sexual exploitation and violence by providing them with exceptional representation.

This year we honored the law firm Mayer Brown and presented the award to their Pro Bono Advisor, Marc Kadish. Mayer Brown has been an ally to CAASE by hosting trainings and taking on complicated legal matters on behalf of survivors. We also honored individual attorneys, George Haines and Lisa Holl-Chang, for their work in representing survivors of sex trafficking through the Justice for Victims of Sex Trafficking Act (JVST) and setting precedent for vacating convictions obtained long after the survivor left their trafficker.

Honorees George Haines, Lisa Holl-Chang, and Marc Kadish discussing their work on behalf of survivors at CAASE's Pro Bono Awards. See more photos here.

Lisa Holl-Chang, Marc Kadish and George Haines of Mayer Brown with Pro Bono Awards. See more photos here.

CAASE’s Pro Bono Project is a vital part of our Legal Program. It helps us serve more clients, provides high-quality representation to survivors, and connects attorneys with fulfilling volunteer opportunities. If you are interested in getting involved with our Pro Bono Project, contact Rachel Johnson at rjohnson@caase.org.


3 NEW LAWS CAASE IS PROUD TO GET BEHIND

9/5/18

Over the past few weeks, Governor Rauner has signed several bills into law that will have a positive impact on the safety, well-being, and dignity of survivors of sexual harm in our state. Three in particular stand out:

1. Police Can No Longer Claim “Consensual” Sexual Contact with Someone in Custody: Custodial Sexual Misconduct - HB5597 is effective immediately

Police commonly interact with vulnerable citizens, be they victims, suspects, witnesses, or people on probation. The power dynamics at play are undeniable. This law recognizes that imbalance by making clear it’s never appropriate for an officer to engage in sexual contact with someone who is in custody or detained. The law bars police from claiming such contact was consensual, a common defense in rape and sexual abuse cases - including those involving officers and people in custody. It is a step in the right direction toward addressing the systemic abuse of power by law enforcement officers.

We thank Representative Juliana Stratton for introducing this legislation and Senator Toi W. Hutchinson for serving as the Chief Senate Sponsor.

2. Victims of Trafficking Can Seal Court Records - a tool for moving past their abuse and exploitation - HB5494 is effective immediately

Traffickers commonly force those they exploit to commit crimes, leaving victims with lengthy criminal records. These records and stigma relating to their criminal history follow survivors long after they are able to leave abusive circumstances, barring them from education, employment, and volunteer opportunities. This law creates a petition process to immediately seal criminal records, helping survivors move beyond a traumatic past towards the life they envision for themselves.

We thank Representative Ann M. Williams for introducing this legislation and Senator Toi W. Hutchinson for serving as the Chief Senate Sponsor.

3. Survivors Will Receive Medical Treatment from Specially Trained Professionals: SASETA Amendments - HB5245 will be fully effective in 2022

Currently, a victim’s experience in seeking medical treatment after sexual violation can be drastically different depending on which hospital they go to and who is working at the time. That's because many emergency rooms do not have staff trained to treat patients with sexual trauma or to collect evidence (a “rape kit”). While comprehensive training to become a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) has been available at no cost for years, most hospitals haven’t supported staff seeking certification. Medical professionals regularly spend their own time and money, often dipping into PTO, to travel to and attend training programs.

SASETA’s amendments address these issues and more. They will require any hospital identifying as a ‘sexual assault treatment facility’ to have SANEs on call 24/7. The amendments also allow survivors under the age of 13 to be treated at approved pediatric clinics - environments that may be less intimidating and more comfortable for children.

These requirements, which are fully effective in 2022, should improve survivor’s experiences in the ER, expand medical personnel expertise in treating sexual trauma, and improve the evidence collected in these cases for increased successful prosecutions.

We thank Representative Michael D. Unes for introducing this legislation and Senator Julie A. Morrison for serving as the Chief Senate Sponsor. We also thank Attorney General Lisa Madigan for championing these amendments.

CAASE celebrates the signing of these bills into law and praises the hard work of the legislatures that passed them.

 


BACK TO SCHOOL FOR PREVENTION 

8/22/18

Students have returned to the classroom and so have CAASE Educators. They spent the summer evaluating data from the 2017-18 school year and gleaning insights that helped them prepare for this year. Some of the highlights include:

To discover more, check out this one page summary of our prevention programs’ impact.

We are proud of the effect our prevention programs continue to have and look forward to the changes this year will bring, such as more in-depth curriculum about consent and sexual assault. Another exciting aspect is our new Prevention team! We are proud to introduce Shalini Murpuri as our Prevention Manager and Jose Corea as our Prevention Educator.

Shalini attended the University of Florida where she earned her Master’s in Education, Marriage & Family Therapy. She has valuable experience in sexual violence prevention; creating and implementing interpersonal violence prevention education for the Sexual Trauma Interpersonal Violence Education program during her time at UF. She also served as a Graduate Assistant for Multicultural & Diversity Affairs where she provided culturally-responsive and identity-based education to promote student success for underserved student populations.

 Jose holds a Master’s degree in English Literature from California State University. Upon graduating, he gained 5 years of higher education teaching experience, during which he successfully created and implemented curricula for courses of varying difficulty. He independently incorporated relevant cultural issues, including feminist topics such as the evolution of gender roles, consent, and how different cultures deal with sexual assault and harassment, while also making sure his classes met learning outcomes.

With the benefit of years of experience in the classroom, rigorous evaluation of our programs and the valuable input of students from the 2017-2018 academic year, CAASE will continue to make a positive impact during this semester and beyond.

To learn more about CAASE's prevention programs, visit our website. You can also read about and request workshops here.


PAINTING WITH PURPOSE

8/8/18

Learning, art, and activism blended this summer at the Skokie Public Library. A group of teens gathered each Wednesday for 6 weeks to collaborate with Milton Coronado, a CAASE Educator and graffiti artist, on a mural inspired by efforts to end sexual harm.

Jarrett Dapier, Young Adult Librarian at the Skokie Public Library, connected with our Prevention Education Program about providing summer programming for teens. Milton proposed a multi-week partnership that incorporated a mural. The library gave the project the green light, calling it Artists for Equality. Milton’s artistic talent and expertise empowering youth to end sexual harm laid a foundation for the creative program.

Artists for Equality kicked off with a learning session where participants absorbed information about personal boundaries, sexual harm, and exploitation. The group took what they learned and creatively expressed it through sketches. Milton gathered the group's ideas and synthesized them into one cohesive piece that he presented to the group. The teens were proud to see elements of their drawings combine to make a unified concept. Milton’s work made them even more excited to start painting! He taught them how to control the medium, showing the group how to manipulate spray paint cans to produce different effects. The group began practicing on the wall, honing the skills it would take to make their vision a reality.

Over the next few weeks, the teens got to work creating their bold painting with a purpose. Everyone pitched in and had a blast working together. As you can see, the teamwork paid off. On August 1st, they completed the project and have something to be truly proud of. The mural will bring color and life to the library for years to come while engaging viewers on the issue of sexual harm.

See more photos on our Facebook!

Milton was able to use his unique artistic talent to connect with this group and show them that creativity has a role to play in creating change. While Milton is moving on from CAASE, we wish him luck in his artistic career and appreciate the lasting impression he has made in Skokie by guiding this mural and much more broadly by empowering countless youth throughout Chicago to end sexual harm during his time with our organization.

To learn more about Milton’s art, visit his website at http://www.crownedart.com.


NOTE OF GRATITUDE AND WELL WISHES FOR CALEB

8/7/18

Dear CAASE allies and friends,

This month CAASE is saying a fond goodbye to our longtime colleague Caleb Probst, who is leaving his role as CAASE's Education Manager to enter a Ph.D. program out of state. While all of us will miss Caleb's wisdom, humor, and kindness, his visionary work is deeply rooted and thriving at CAASE. We remain fully committed to continuing and growing the high-impact, cutting-edge programming that Caleb has played a critical role in establishing here.

When CAASE's Founder and dear friend Rachel Durchslag, who was responsible for recruiting Caleb to CAASE in the first place, heard of his departure she eloquently articulated what a pleasure it had been to work with Caleb and I couldn't agree more. I think you will enjoy her thoughts as well:

When Caleb and I first began working together around ten years ago, the movement to end the demand for sexually exploited individuals in Chicago was in its infancy. By joining the movement so early on, Caleb truly became a pioneer of innovation in this work.

It's is a gift to know, let alone work with, a man who embodies the values of feminism, social justice, and racial equity so beautifully. With every project he did at CAASE, Caleb brought not only these values but his heart, his creativity, his intellect, and unflinching belief that through preventative education we could begin to heal a fragmented world.

When I reflect back on my time at CAASE, what continually rises to the surface as one of my most proud initiatives was the prevention work Caleb and I did together. His commitment to the cause coupled with his amazing educator abilities has shaped the hearts and minds of hundreds of young men in Chicago around issues of sexual assault. And his work on the curriculum has had the ripple effect of being used throughout the world to help enlist young men in the fight to end sexual harm.

Caleb helped shape what CAASE, as an organization, has become. And his influence will be felt with everything the organization does moving forward. It was an honor to work with him and I am truly excited to see what this next phase of his life will bring.

- Rachel Durchslag

Caleb at the 2017 Celebrating Allies CAASE fundraiser with our Board President, Ross, Prevention Intern Abby, and Policy Director, Megan,

It has been a true privilege and pleasure to be Caleb's colleague and supervisor (or "Boss-Lady" as Caleb sometimes referred to me), my sentiments about him are perfectly echoed in Rachel's letter. We thank Caleb for all he has contributed to CAASE. We're excited to continue the programs he established and welcome our new Prevention Manager Shalini Mirpuri.

The final portion of Caleb's time with us has been spent training Shalini. She has valuable experience in sexual violence prevention, coming to us from the University of Florida where she created and implemented interpersonal violence prevention education for the Sexual Trauma Interpersonal Violence Education or STRIVE program. She also served as a Graduate Assistant for Multicultural & Diversity Affairs where she provided culturally-responsive and identity-based education to promote student success for underserved student populations. We welcome her to our team and to Chicago!


Executive Director


MAP DRAWN FOR OUR NEXT 3 YEARS

8/3/18

After months of research, reflection, collaboration, visioning, and work, CAASE has a new strategic plan! It was adopted by our Board of Directors in July and describes our focus for the next 3 years. The plan is filled with fresh objectives and stable growth centered on four capacity areas identified through organization-wide analysis: Board/Governance, Community Role, Marketing and Communications, and Resource Development. The plan also stresses the need to infuse Intersectional Equity into these areas and throughout the entire organization.

CAASE's Strategic Plan Executive Summary for FY2018-2021 gives an excellent overview of the work that lies ahead as we continue our commitment to end sexual harm and demand change.

We are pleased to share this roadmap with you and hope to have your support along the way! If you would like, you may download a copy of the Executive Summary.

Excited about what's ahead? Donate to CAASE to support the objectives laid out in the plan.

You can stay up to date on CAASE work by subscribing to our newsletter and following CAASE on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


CITY DOUBLES DOWN ON FAILED EFFORTS TO END PROSTITUTION

7/26/18

This week a city ordinance ostensibly designed to fight prostitution became law. Sadly, it doubles down on the city’s failed efforts to end prostitution while rejecting every established best practice for crime reduction. It adds another nonviolent charge to the books and a new mandatory minimum jail sentence. Most disappointingly, it punishes people who rarely have better options for surviving and are often victims of sex trafficking.

The new law allows the Superintendent to designate prostitution-free hotspots - which he’s not required to publicly identify - and authorizes police to target, detain, and arrest people in them if they are “loitering for the purposes of prostitution”. The law doesn’t identify what an officer can consider when assessing unlawful conduct, begging the question if wearing a skirt of a certain length or waiting for a ride will invite arrest in particular neighborhoods. Additionally, existing loitering-related enforcement unfairly targets racial and ethnic minorities. It’s distressing but reasonable to expect more of the same disproportionate impact on already marginalized populations, including homeless youth, one-third of which are forced to trade sex for survival, and trans women who engage in survival sex at a rate 10 times higher than cis women due to poverty and discrimination.

History and social science prove that arresting and prosecuting sex sellers does not decrease prostitution. This fact promoted Illinois to change state law by providing a safe haven for minors in prostitution, defelonizing sex-selling, and increasing incentives for buyer-targeted policing. Smart communities place blame for the sex trade on buyers - who are overwhelmingly men with disposable income, buying sex in neighborhoods they don’t live in, and who can be deterred with prevention education and financial penalties. Chicago claims to understand this - it’s why at the same time City Council passed the terrible loitering ordinance, they amended city code to increase fines for buying sex and nominally decrease fines for selling. However, if Chicago’s leaders truly understood, policing and legislation would look very different.

The Chicago Reporter revealed that 90% of the CPD’s prostitution-related arrests are for selling sex, not buying. Given that the overwhelming majority of people ‘involved in prostitution’ are male buyers, while sellers are predominantly female, this disparity is both disturbing and discriminatory. The severe penalties embedded in the anti-loitering law are also contemptible. Fines up to $500 are laughably out-of-reach for most in the sex trade and a mandatory minimum 5 days’ incarceration for a second offense is outrageous, particularly in a community that celebrates Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx joining a task force aimed at reducing the number of incarcerated women. Finally, the third offense penalty of a 30-day ban on being present in a “hotspot” fails to recognize that many people who sell sex face huge barriers to accessing housing, safety, or needed services in any community outside of the ones they know well.

There’s a lot Aldermen can, and should, do to end the sex trade in their communities but they seem to need some pointers. Here’s how to start: seek accountability from CPD by asking why it’s not targeting sex buyers and demand change. Address the issues driving people into selling in the first place, such as economic hardship and housing insecurity. Do so by passing Alderman Pawar’s Universal Basic Income ordinance, and Alderman Waguespeck’s Fair Workweek Ordinance. Join the #fightfor15 movement. Deliver more affordable and public housing options. The list goes on but that’s a start. Punishing people who don’t have better options for surviving will do nothing to end the sexual exploitation of our community’s most vulnerable members. Creating real opportunities will.


THE RACE FOR CAASE TEAM PUSHED PAST THE FINISHLINE

7/7/18

Last month, the Race for CAASE Team crossed the finish line in the Race Against Gun Violence. 78 people pledged their run and raised funds to support CAASE's cutting-edge Prevention Programs. But they didn't stop at the end of the course. Supporters continued to donate, raising a total of $31,000! 
We thank everyone who supported the team and participated.

Watch this short recap video to relive the fun event!


BEST WISHES TO XENIA, OUR PILI FELLOW

6/25/18

The mission of the Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) is to cultivate a lifelong commitment to public interest law and pro bono service within the Illinois legal community to expand the availability of legal services for people, families, and communities in need. One way PILI fulfills that mission is by running its Graduate Fellowship Program. The program places new associates from Chicago law firms at public interest law agencies in Illinois, where they work hundreds of hours between law school graduation and joining the firm. Fellows are paid by their hiring firm, allowing them to gain working experience serving people suffering from abuse, discrimination, divorce, eviction and other civil legal problems. This exposure often fosters a passion for assisting those in need throughout their legal career.

CAASE joins 60+ other Illinois agencies as a PILI partner. The fellowship program attracts some of the best and brightest law school graduates and this year was no exception. We were delighted to host Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law graduate Xenia Chiu, who was sponsored by Sidley Austin LLP where she’ll begin working this fall. Xenia applied for CAASE's position because she is passionate about ending sexual harm. She was already involved with us as a member of CAASE's Young Professional Board but wanted to learn more about our work and spend her fellowship addressing issues she cares deeply about. It was a perfect fit!

Adela, Christine, Xenia, Mallory, Rachel, and Danielle of the CAASE Legal Team.

During her time with CAASE, Xenia helped the legal team with research and prepared legal documents such as motions, discovery requests, and opening statements. She also spent many hours observing cases in the courtroom. Xenia says "Hearing the facts of sexual assault cases was challenging but I was rewarded by the experience of being an ally to survivors and gaining a substantive understanding of CAASE's work. I loved working for an organization that takes a holistic approach to address sexual harm".

While Xenia learned a lot from CAASE during her fellowship, she also gave us a lot, too! She went above and beyond her duties every step of the way. She served on the Race for CAASE host committee and joined as a team member, pledging a run and raising funds to support sexual harm prevention programs. She also remains on CAASE's Young Professional Board and plans to continue her involvement. She looks forward to one day joining CAASE's Pro Bono Project, too.

Xenia helped raise funds for CAASE as a member of the Race for CAASE team host committee and by participating as a runner.

We wish Xenia all the best as her fellowship comes to a close, she prepares for the bar exam and starts her legal career. In the spirit of PILI, we know she holds dear the lessons she has learned about what it means to stand up for those who need help the most. We look forward to her continued support - she'll always have ours.


THANK YOU TO THE RACE FOR CAASE TEAM!

6/8/18

The Race for CAASE Team was beaming as they crossed the finish line in yesterday's Race Against Gun Violence. 78 people pledged their run and raised funds to support CAASE's cutting-edge Prevention Programs. Their commitment to ending sexual harm and diligent work fundraising resulted in a $28,331 boost toward educating young people to deter and prevent sexual harm. 

Their fantastic efforts put us within reach of our $40,000 goal! Our team has until June 17th to reach this milestone amount and you can help. Celebrate the team's accomplishment by donating today! You'll be supporting prevention, plus it's your chance to increase the impact of every dollar as your donation will be partially matched by the Greer Foundation.


The 2018 Race for CAASE Team. Check out more photos here!


We are so grateful to everyone who has or will give. Our runners, walkers, volunteers, and donors showed us amazing support and we know others will join them by the June 17th deadline. We want to especially thank this year's sponsors - Escutcheon, Monahan Law GroupPerkins CoieAlexander MoversVMaidsA.S. Baum, and Moll Law Group - for giving our team the jump start they needed! 

CAASE also wants to uplift Strides for Peace for organizing the Race Against Gun Violence. They did a wonderful job bringing together anti-violence organizations from across Chicago and we were excited to be a part of the event. By participating, CAASE honored its commitment to meeting survivors where they are - as people embedded in communities with unique, important concerns and priorities. 

We'd also like to recognize our Race Team Committee members, Amy Kohn, Kaethe Morris Hoffer, Margot Gordon, Sarah Crocker, Emily Bergman, Michael Ovca, Cara Ward, and Xenia Chiu for their efforts in making make this a successful event!

Remember, you have until June 17th to support the Race for CAASE Team. Help them reach their goal now!


SEXUAL HARASSMENT HEADLINES HAVE STUDENTS TALKING

CAASE Helps Steer the Conversation

6/5/18

A wave of sexual harassment and assault allegations has washed over media headlines these past eight months. As survivors raise their voices, many adults grapple with how to explain these situations to young people. The Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE) prevention workshops have helped guide youth conversations about harmful sexual behaviors for over a decade and, in this moment, their expertise is especially critical.

CAASE prevention workshops (which cover consent, healthy relationships, gender constructs, power dynamics of sexual exploitation, interrupting sexual harm and how to get help) empower students to end sexual harm. Over the past school year, CAASE staff noticed student participants were more aware of, engaged in, and willing to discuss sexual violation than in years past. In anonymous written feedback, CAASE saw an increase in students reflecting on their own experiences with sexual harm compared to previous years. Their "MeToo" stories described violations that had happened to them or to a friend. Many youth participants were also inspired to write about the challenges they face in having healthy relationships in today's society and what they can do to change it. For example, one wrote, "I will approach dating with respect and I will make sure that everything is consensual".

It's impossible to credit the uptick in student reflections on these issues to any one factor. But, it's also impossible to ignore that this shift in student feedback is happening within a cultural sea change sparked by the #MeToo movement. Students are speaking up more than ever. They are seeking answers and ways to be part of the solution. But students aren't the only ones being empowered.

Many teachers confided in CAASE staff, saying they felt ill-equipped to dig deeper into conversations around harmful sexual behavior with students. They worried it was a topic too big to tackle so they avoided it. After CAASE provided students with educational workshops on sexual harm, teachers expressed feeling more confident in addressing sexual harassment and unpacking headlines with their pupils. Seeing CAASE engage students on tough topics set an example for the adults regularly in students' lives. Teachers' willingness and preparedness to have these conversations is invaluable.

The 2017-18 school year was unique; it was steeped in a culture having new conversations about sexual harassment and the meaning of gender equality. As a result, students engaged with issues of sexual harm and healthy relationships more deeply this year. We hope for more of the same next year.

CAASE offers a variety of workshops, including content on consent, healthy masculinity, sex trafficking, and pimping. All are available for free to schools and programs that work with teens. Each workshop is designed to meet a group's individual needs. They are available in 45-, 60-, or 90-minute versions and can be implemented with groups as small as 10 and as large as 200. Interested groups should email info@caase.org or call 773-244-2230 for more information.


LEGAL ADVOCACY BOOT CAMP

6/4/18

Our Legal Team kicked off the month by facilitating a Legal Advocacy Boot Camp. The day-long training provided advocates who serve survivors of sexual assault with an overview of how various legal and institutional remedies may assist their clients. Attendees from Metropolitan Family Services, RVA, YWCA Metropolitan Chicago, Mujeres Latinas en Accion, and Howard Brown Health Center gained information that will allow them to provide more options to those they serve.

Our Legal Director Christine Evans, Senior Staff Attorney Mallory Littlejohn, and Staff Attorney Rachel Johnson covered several topics that impact survivors. The day was broken into sections reviewing Criminal Justice Advocacy & Victims’ Rights, Civil No Contact Orders & Domestic Violence Court, Educational Advocacy & Title IX, and Employment Advocacy & Workplace Sexual Violence.

By learning together, organizations serving survivors of sexual violation are able to support those we serve more effectively. CAASE’s Attorneys were glad they could provide expert insight and advice at this training and look forward to the next one! We thank Metropolitan Family Services for hosting the boot camp and everyone who attended for making it a great success.

If your organization serves survivors of sexual harm and is interested in a legal training, email info@caase.org to learn more.


WELCOME LEGAL INTERNS

5/24/18

Each summer, CAASE hosts legal interns who help our attorneys serve survivors. This year is no exception and we warmly welcome Brandi Bolton of John Marshall Law School, Leslie Hill of DePaul Law School and Kelly Ehrenreich of University of Michigan Law School.

These exceptional law students received training (pictured) from each of our departments, giving them an understanding of the work CAASE does as a whole and how legal services fit into our broader mission. This overview will serve them well as they spend the next few months assisting with legal research/writing, conducting client interviews, and communicating with clients about their case status. They will also observe court appearances and participate in initial client consultations.

Above: The Prevention Team (Abby Juhlmann, Caleb Probst, Milton Coronado) share an overview of their work with the 2018 summer legal interns

Mallory Littlejohn, a CAASE Sr. Staff Attorney, manages the legal interns. She says, "They're gaining practical legal experience - interacting with real clients, the courts, and getting insight they cannot find in a classroom." She also points out that "They learn a great deal about the challenges facing survivors who are seeking justice through the legal system". That knowledge may stick with them the most. Many past interns wish to continue their allyship with survivors. They stay involved with CAASE, often participating in our Pro Bono Project and connecting our organization with law firms throughout Chicago.

Above: Mallory Littlejohn (left), a CAASE Sr. Staff Attorney, discusses legal documents with the 2018 summer legal interns


Empowering Workers to Use Their Voice Against Sexual Violation

5/8/18

Since last fall, millions of survivors have called out workplace sexual violence using #MeToo. In response, survivors in Chicago from diverse backgrounds and blue-collar industries have pressed for a movement of resistance to the tolerance of sexual violence in the workplace, especially for low-wage workers.

The Coalition Against Workplace Sexual Violence (CAWSV), which is comprised of worker rights activists, labor organizations, and anti-gender violence organizations (including CAASE) answered this outcry by organizing Building a #MeToo Worker-Led Resistance. The 2-day convening equipped grassroots organizers and workers with tools to open a dialogue in their communities on the causes of gender-based violence, create safe spaces for workers experiencing gender-based violence, and build individual and institutional allyship in their communities.

During the May 6th and 7th gathering, workshops were co-facilitated by worker leaders and representatives from anti-gender violence organizations. Esther Bolaños, a member of the Domestic Worker and Day Laborer Center of Chicago partnered with CAASE Staff Attorney Rachel Johnson (pictured right) to lead workshops on sexual harassment and the law. Their sessions, titled "Tools for Survivors", clarified the legal definition of sexual harassment and discussed how to identify it. Participants also had the chance practice reporting misconduct to employers through role-playing.

Esther and Rachel have collaborated over the past few months, becoming a dynamic duo as they share information and encourage dialogue with diverse audiences. Rachel finds the partnership invaluable, saying "CAWSV works at the intersection of workers rights and anti-gender based violence. Co-facilitating workshops with Esther allows us to highlight the interplay between these critical issues and empower workers to use their voice."

CAASE is proud to work with the allied organizations that compose CAWSV, which made Building a #MeToo Worker-Led Resistance a success. The convening's 40+ participants are better prepared to exercise their rights, prevent workplace sexual harm, and share what they learned in their own communities.

Above: CAWSV members at Building a #MeToo Worker-Led Resistance. 

Learn more about CAWSV here.


5/6/18

2017 was a big year for CAASE! We provided legal services to more survivors than ever before, empowered thousands of Chicago youth through prevention programs, successfully advocated for public policies that will reduce sexual harm, and engaged with the greater community on issues related to sexual harm. Check out our work and progress over the past calendar year on our annual "2017 At a Glance". 


Now That We're Men: an honest look at stepping into manhood

4/16/18

Last week, The Steppenwolf Theater and several area high schools welcomed performances of the play Now That We’re Men. The brutally honest piece, written by Katie Cappiello, examines how teenage boys navigate their journey to manhood. The play’s five characters compose a high school friend group whose interactions drive the narrative. The collective story is suspended when each young man breaks into a deeply personal monologue reflecting thoughts and feelings influenced by rape culture and social expectations.

The play explores the topics of consent, power, porn, sexual orientation, masculinity, and sex. Now That We’re Men doesn’t sugar coat these themes. It truthfully lies out, in language heard in high schools across the country, the conversations and inner dialogues of adolescent men. The play's realism supercharges its impact on audiences – especially teens.

Viewers find themselves recognizing the characters as someone they have known, remembering comparable conversations, and recalling similar conflicts from their life whether they happened last semester or last decade. CAASE congratulates Cappiello on creating a work of such relevance and relatability for high school students. It is a powerful tool for engaging young people on the topics it explores. 


CAASE linked Now That We’re Men with Evanston Township High School (ETHS) to arrange a staged reading as part of the school's Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) campaign. Nearly 600 students, faculty, and CAASE staff members were absorbed by the performance. Following the reading, Cappiello and the cast provided a talkback allowing students to ask questions, comment on, and connect the play’s situations with their lives. Students asked how they could be “part of the solution” when it comes to sexual harm, highlighting the power of the piece for adolescence. We hope many more have the chance to experience it!

Click to learn more about Now That We’re Men.

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Left to right: Hayley Forrestal (CAASE Communications Manager), Kaethe Morris Hoffer (CAASE Exc. Director),Caleb Grandoit, Fred Hechinger, Rayshawn Richardson (NTWM Cast Members), Charlotte Arnoux (NTWM Assistant Director and Associate Producer), Katie Cappiello (NTWM Writer and Director ), Marquis Rodrigue (NTWM, filled in for Alphonso Jones for the ETHS performance), and Jordan Eliot (NTWM Cast).

 

 


SURVIVORS' PROJECT AMPLIFIES VOICES

4/2/2018

Over the past year, Marion Brooks of NBC Chicago worked to compile survivors' stories of sexual violence from around Chicago into the 'Survivors Project'. Participants shared their pain in hopes of helping others who have had similar experiences -- in hopes of helping other “victims” become “survivors.” We thank Venesa, a former client of CAASE, for contributing. You have encouraged others by saying #metoo. We also thank Marion Brooks for amplifying these voices.


TROUBLED BY ‘Pretty Woman’? SPEND YOUR MONEY ELSEWHERE

3/31/2018

In her piece for the Chicago Sun-Times, Katie Watson gave 'Pretty Women' a needed re-write. Read 'In #MeToo era, let’s flip the script for ‘Pretty Woman’' to see why she made a donation to CAASE   instead of buying tickets to the musical. CAASE thanks Katie for the gift and for reminding potential audience members about the realities of sexual exploitation.


PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE

3/29/18

It’s abundantly clear that we are living in a historic moment. The issues of sexual violence and gender equality have captured the world's attention in a way that seemed impossible a year ago. We can’t think of a better time to reflect on where CAASE has been and plan a future filled with possibility and growth. Propelled by the momentum of this moment, we embark on crafting a new strategic plan.

Morten Group, the consulting firm guiding us through this process, conducted a comprehensive three-month long assessment of CAASE. Data regarding a multitude of organizational aspects was collected from stakeholders, clients, partners, staff, and others. Morten Group analyzed the data, compiled a report, and presented the findings to staff and board at a work retreat on March 9.

The report was presented, identifying 4 areas we should focus on to maximize CAASE's impact: Resource Development, Board/Governance, Marketing and Communications, and Community Role. Participants broke into groups assigned to one of these areas. Teams dove into crafting organization objectives to be addressed over the next few years. Each workgroup shared their ideas with the whole retreat before closing the day with assignments to refine objectives and set goals with measurements for success.

Our workgroups will continue, with the help of Morton Group, to develop plans over the coming months. Everyone's efforts will be rewarded with a unified strategic plan that provides a clear map for CAASE’s future.

You can stay up to date on the strategic planning process by subscribing to our newsletter and following CAASE on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


OAK PARK ORDINANCE

Trafficked people and massage therapists get much-needed protections

3/29/18

This winter, CAASE assisted Oak Park village officials in furthering anti-trafficking and anti-sexual harassment clauses in their massage business license ordinance. This change came after multiple illicit massage business were investigated in the National John’s Suppression Initiative, led by the Cook County Sheriff.

The success of the ordinance - which passed unanimously - was due to the leadership and advocacy of Oak Park Village Trustee Simone Boutet. She reached out to CAASE and the Massage Advocacy Project of Working America last fall as the proposal was being drafted. Because of her diligent work and foresight to include expert organizations, both trafficked people and massage therapists have much-needed protections to limit commercial sex trade and sexual harassment within massage establishments. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, callers most frequently indicate illicit massage businesses when reporting sex trafficking to the hotline.

This ordinance will better regulate massage establishments in Oak Park. Requirements include background checks for all business applicants, ensuring an anti-sexual harassment policy is in place, and posting written notices reminding customers it is illegal to solicit a therapist for sex acts. The ordinance also supports massage therapists who are sexually harassed or assaulted by ensuring they can safely report any incidents without repercussions. This is critical because some customers assume they can purchase sex acts at these businesses.

No legitimate massage business would object to these proactive steps to ensure the safety and health of both their employees and customers. CAASE thanks Trustee Boutet for her efforts, and hopes other communities in the Chicago area follow the village’s lead by working with expert organizations to craft and pass similar ordinances to counter all forms of sexual harm.

If you suspect human trafficking is taking place, you should submit a tip online or call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.


WELCOME NEW STAFF 

3/28/18

Over the past few months, CAASE has filled 4 positions - 2 of which are new to the organization. We are excited about this growth and thrilled to gain professionals who will help CAASE reach higher levels of success for our clients, stakeholders and the community at large. We welcome our new staff and would like to introduce them:

Danielle Johnson, Senior Staff Attorney

Danielle graduated from SIU School of Law in 2009 and began working as an Assistant State’s Attorney at Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office (CCSAO). She was successful at the CCSAO and was promoted several time, eventually serving the Delinquency side of Juvenile Court. In this role, Danielle prosecuted cases from investigation, to charging, to sentencing stages. Danielle spent nearly 6 years at CCSAO prosecuting over 200 trials including 5 jury trials.

At CAASE, Danielle is in charge of Criminal Justice Advocacy. She represents rape victims and ensure their rights are upheld. She also conducts trainings related to law and sexual violation for various audiences and provides supervision and mentoring to junior attorneys. Contact Danielle at djohnson@caase.org.

Jenny Dawson, Operations Associate

After studying mathematics at the University of California, Davis, Jenny began working in operations. She gained 9 years of experience in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors. Prior to joining CAASE, she applied her skills as a consultant for small businesses, focusing on improving the efficacy of systems and procedures. Jenny is passionate about using her talents to support and further the mission of CAASE.

Her role at CAASE includes providing support to the Operations Director in all operations activities - specifically bookkeeping, office management, volunteer management and support for special events. Contact Jenny at jdawson@caase.org.

Madeleine Behr, Policy Associate

Madeleine worked as a government and investigative reporter at USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin in Appleton, and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism in Madison. Originally from the Chicago suburbs, Madeleine is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with bachelor’s degrees in journalism and legal studies.

At CAASE, she works with the Policy Director to build and strengthen relationships related to promoting policy and legislation locally and statewide. Contact Madeleine at mbehr@caase.org.

Hayley Forrestal, Communications Manager

Hayley found a passion for gender equality in college. Following graduation, she began working as a graphic designer and marketing associate while volunteering her free time advocating for survivors through Kankakee County Center Against Sexual Assault. She loved volunteering so much that she delighted in the opportunity to work for the Center as their Communications Coordinator and Prevention Educator. Five years and one move later, Hayley found her place at CAASE and is thrilled to work for an organization seeking to address the full spectrum of sexual harm.

As Communications Manager, she supports CAASE’s brand, external communication, marketing, and relationship with the media. Contact Hayley at hforrestal@caase.org.

CAASE is grateful to have added so much talent to our team. We look forward to seeing all the ways their contributions advance our mission.


WHY CAASE SUPPORTS SESTA FOSTA

It’s been delayed before, but the US Senate appears to be on the verge of voting on “SESTA/FOSTA”, a bill CAASE strongly supports. The bill is currently scheduled for consideration in the Senate on Monday.

Right now, individual pimps and traffickers can be sued or prosecuted for the role they play in exploiting prostituted children and adults. However, websites that knowingly promote and profit from exploitation are protected from being held accountable for their role in hurting people who are in the sex trade against their will. SESTA/FOSTA, a strongly bipartisan bill, seeks to change that. The bill would allow people who have been hurt by traffickers to sue internet companies, like Backpage.com, which makes millions every year from online sex ads.

Some people argue that this law will be used to hinder people who choose to be in the sex trade or deter people from sharing information designed to increase safety and wellness for people in prostitution. This is FALSE: although the law might discourage companies from creating businesses that promote prostitution, this bill doesn’t make advertising prostitution any more, or less, illegal than it’s always been.

CAASE knows this legislation won’t end the commercial sex trade online, but it’s a solid start to hold those at the top accountable for knowingly profiting from sex trafficking. SESTA/FOSTA provides a critical pathway towards justice for anyone whose sexual violation was exploited to generate wealth for digital marketers.

Join CAASE - contact your senators today and ask them to vote in support of the  SESTA/FOSTA bill which already passed the House!

UPDATE: SESTA passed the Senate on 3/21/18 with an overwhelmingly supportive bipartisan vote of 97-2. Thank you to everyone who contacted legislators and raised the voices of survivors. The Bill will move onto the President.


CAASE speaks to defining healthy masculinity and empowering men to become allies

On Friday, August 4th, CAASE Education Manager Caleb Probst joined a panel on engaging boys and men in conversation about healthy masculinity at the annual Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force Conference. Caleb shared his expertise on engaging boys and men in conversations about healthy masculinity, and shared insights with CAASE allies from Detroit-based organization I AM: The Empowerment Project. Their thought-provoking discussion touched on many things, including how pornography, pop culture, and the mass marketing of “hyper masculinity” is impacting young men in every community.

They walked though how to address definitions of healthy masculinity by breaking down the use of language when referring to sex, power, and relationships.  They examined the everyday use of popular phrases to highlight how hyper masculinity plays a part in shaping how young people talk about sex and relationships and how it can reinforce unhealthy, even violent masculinity.

The speakers collectively agreed that it is crucial to have a safe space for young men to discuss these issues freely and how doing so empowers them to challenge the gender norms they encounter on a daily basis. Caleb and the panel explained how prevention education can pave the way for many young men to become positive influences for their peers and change these problematic dynamics.

CAASE’s Prevention education program is available for schools across Chicago including college campuses. If you’re interested in bringing our program to your school, contact Caleb at caleb@caase.org


Allies launch research report that builds strategies to end gender-based violence against low-wage workers

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

Read the full research report here >>


Prevention education at work in the classroom

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! 

Learn more and sign up >> 


Thank you for making CAASE's tenth anniversary a night to remember!

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.

Check out our event photos >>


Breaking the silence with technology: A conversation about reporting campus sexual assault

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.

Read more & see our event photo album>>


Know Your IX panel at Young Feminist Conference

CAASE Executive Director, Kaethe Morris Hoffer, joined a Know Your IX panel on Monday August 15th, which was part of the Young Feminist Conference.

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

Check out our photo album >>


Speaking about demand reduction in Illinois and beyond

The 6th Annual Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force conference was a two-day event of insightful and informative presentations from local and national experts on human trafficking.

CAASE Policy Associate, Melissa Banerjee moderated a unique panel looking at demand reduction strategies for law enforcement and prosecutors.

On the panel, CAASE Policy Director, Lynne Johnson discussed the attitudes and beliefs of johns and how law enforcement attention can have a real impact on reducing demand in different communities. As Johnson pointed out, men mostly buy sex because they can and johns tell us what would deter them including getting arrested, fined, or publicly outed for their actions. 

Michael Garske, a detective in Washington, shared how he spearheaded the take-down of a major buyer review site "K Girl Delights," and his work in consequent johns stings. Lastly, Christine Bayer, a prosecutor in Kane County, discussed the Kane County State's Attorney's Office decision to charge johns with human trafficking crimes.

Check out our photo album >>

Interested in making an impact in your community? Contact Melissa for details at info@caase.org.


State’s Attorney candidates discuss plans to address gender-based violence

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.

Here’s a snippet of  community questions & quotes from the candidates on Twitter:

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.


CAASE educator tackles sexual harassment in comedy communities

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.


Marketing the Movement: Advertising and the fight to end sexual exploitation

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.

Learn more about the campaign >>

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:

  1. Meet people where they are – Cater your message to people’s level of understanding of the issue.
  2. Use solid data – Always be sure your data is accurate and take the time to research the credibility of your information sources.
  3. Use images and messaging to move people to action, not only to feel. Why is your cause urgent?
  4. Be reasonable but not forceful – You can’t create understanding by forcing your views onto others.
  5. Being right instead of “righteous” – Let the lived experiences of the community you serve speak for themselves and make it about justice not about your own feelings of righteousness.

See our photo album >>


JVST creates an even larger impact for one survivor

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.


CAASE's Young Activist Council hosts screening Dreamcatcher, a powerful documentary 

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.

See our full photo album>>

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!


Rockford joins community effort to end demand for sexual exploitation

 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.

See our full photo album>>

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.


CAASE's first house party was a big success, thank you!

On Tuesday, March 31st, CAASE's Executive Director, Kaethe Morris Hoffer opened her lovely home to guests for a special CAASE house party.

Check out these party snapshots! >>

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.

See our full photo album >>


CAASE Staff Attorney presents at University of Chicago event on human trafficking

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.


CAASE joins panel on sex trafficking in Chicago at "A Path Appears" film screening

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.


CAASE's Celebrates Progress by honoring State Senator Toi Hutchinson with Champion Award

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!

See our full photo album >>

CAASE Staff Attorney leads workshop on combating workplace sexual violence through coalitions

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. 


Survivors discuss importance of policy reform at Human Trafficking Conference

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.


Thank you for attending CAASE's Open House!

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 client wins trial, feels heard and protected

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.

To learn more visit our Legal Services page or to schedule a free consultation, please call 773-244-2230, ext. 204. or email veronica@caase.org.


CAASE NEWS: The Young Activist Council tells customers to "Buy Beers, Not People" at bartending fundraiser

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.

Get your t-shirt, today! >> 

 

 


CAASE speaks to college students about sexual assault, their rights, and the law

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 veronica@caase.org.


CAASE and The Whistleblower inspire audience to fight sexual exploitation

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:


CAASE helps raise awareness of the sexual exploitation of farmworker women

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.


CAASE joins human trafficking forum for local leaders and police officers

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 engages attorneys in creative training for litigating workplace sexual violence

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.


CAASE urges Amnesty International to reject prostitution policy proposal

 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.

See Chicago Sun-Times interview with CAASE >>

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.

See Chicago Sun-Times coverage of the rally >>

 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.


CAASE NEWS: Executive Director speaks at Women’s Seder on Human Trafficking

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:

A new year always invites reflection. As we look back, CAASE has a lot to be proud of! In 2018, CAASE provided legal services to hundreds of survivors, empowered thousands of Chicago youth through prevention programs, successfully advocated for public policies that will reduce sexual harm, and engaged with the greater community on issues related to sexual violation. Check out our work and progress over the past calendar year on our annual "2018: Year at a Glance".


6 PROPOSED TITLE IX REGULATIONS THAT WOULD HARM K-12 STUDENTS - and What You Can Do About It

In 2011 and 2014, the Obama administration published guidance documents regarding how education institutions should address sexual misconduct in schools in order to comply with Title IX. Under the Trump administration, the U.S. Department of Education withdrew that guidance in September 2017 and replaced it with new recommendations for schools to follow while the U.S. Department of Education prepared to institute more permanent regulations.

On November 16, 2018, the Department of Education published proposed policies on sexual misconduct in schools that rollback much of the guidance that directed schools to appropriately address it. Unlike the guidance issued by previous administrations, the regulations will be mandatory for schools to follow. Fortunately, before the regulations are finalized, the rulemaking process allows the public an opportunity to comment on it, and the Department must respond to those comments. CAASE will comment and press the Department of Education to reverse their harmful, backward positions. We urge you to make your voice heard, too.

Here’s what you need to know about some of the proposed policy changes and
how they would affect K-12 students in Illinois.

1. K-12 students would be most impacted

Much of the national conversation regarding Title IX and sexual assault has centered on colleges and universities, but these new policies would have a harmful impact on K-12 students as well. Illinois has a state law called Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education which provides colleges and universities with a baseline for responding to sexual misconduct. However, the state lacks such a law addressing sexual misconduct in K-12 schools where it’s also alarmingly common, as documented by the Chicago Tribune. As a result, the new federal regulations will govern how the state’s primary and secondary schools handle these cases.

2. Students may face repeated and escalating sexual harassment before the school has any duty to respond

Under the proposed regulations, schools would be allowed to ignore cases of sexual harassment that are not sexual assault until the harassed student has been denied equal access to their education, such as being forced to miss classes or drop out of school. Students may experience many wide-ranging, negative effects of sexual harassment before a school recognizes that they are being denied access to education. If a school is only required to address cases of harassment that deny a student’s access to education, students would be forced to endure repeated and escalating levels of abuse before they are able to receive help from their schools.

The proposed definition of sexual harassment also requires more severe and persistent sexual conduct than Title VII’s definition of sexual harassment in the workplace. This will create the disturbing and senseless effect of children being forced to endure more severe sexual harassment in schools than adults have to experience in the workplace before any action is legally required to stop it.

3. Schools would have no responsibility for responding to students in many sexual assault incidents

Much of the sexual misconduct suffered by students does not take place at school. Yet, the new regulations would only hold schools responsible for investigating incidents that take place on their grounds or during a school activity. This is a departure from guidance from the Bush and Obama administrations strongly suggesting that schools investigate complaints regardless of where an incident took place. Under the proposed policy, when a student is assaulted by a classmate at an off-campus location such as a friend’s house or a party, the school would actually be required to dismiss the survivor’s complaint under Title IX and would have no obligation to investigate or take any action whatsoever.

When a school does not initiate an investigation, a student victim may have no choice but to continue seeing their assailant each day in class, in the hallways, and in the lunchroom. Feeling forced to share space with their assailant can further traumatize a victim and severely hinder their ability to focus and learn. Harmful situations such as these would fly in the face of Title IX’s purpose to provide an equal opportunity to education.

4. Reporting sexual misconduct to a trusted guidance counselor, nurse, or coach likely not enough to require the school to act

In order to comply with previous recommendations, including the interim guidance issued by the current administration in 2017, a school was required to respond if it knew or reasonably should have known about possible sexual misconduct. The proposed regulations would only hold institutions legally responsible for investigating and responding to formal complaints made to a Title IX “official who has the authority to institute corrective measures.” While teachers at K-12 schools will fall under this category, it is unclear which other school employees -- including coaches, teacher’s aides, guidance counselors, and nurses -- will be considered the proper “officials”.

Under the new rules, if a student tells a trusted school employee that they have been assaulted and that adult is not such an official, the school would have no duty to investigate the complaint. This policy would reduce liability for schools and make it easier for them to avoid addressing - or even cover up - sexual misconduct. It would also place all of the responsibility on students to tell the correct official and place blame on them if they report their assault to the ‘wrong’ staff member.

5. Student victims may be pressured into ‘talking it out’ with their assailant

If a school does respond to a complaint, the proposed regulations would allow it to facilitate a mediation, instead of engaging in a formal disciplinary process, if the parties agree to it. Informal resolution procedures such as mediation were considered inappropriate under Bush and Obama administration guidance. Because of the power dynamics between students and school administrators, it’s difficult to ensure participation in mediation is truly voluntary. Some students may wish to go through an informal resolution, but many may feel they don’t have the option or the autonomy to say no when a school official asks them to agree to mediation. It’s easy to imagine how a student victim may be further traumatized by facing their assailant during mediation under these circumstances.

Schools might also use mediation as a way to avoid investigating sexual misconduct or making a decision regarding sanctions. By foregoing an investigation, a school dodges the important process of determining whether a student assailant has created a hostile environment or is a potential threat to other students. This does a disservice to the survivor and the rest of the school community.

6. Survivors may have to present a higher level of evidence than victims of bullying, racism, or other student conduct violations

Previous guidance recommended that schools use a standard known as “preponderance of the evidence” in determining if sexual misconduct took place. It means the evidence must show it’s more likely than not that the accused committed the violation. It is the standard used to determine all kinds of student misconduct violations - from plagiarism to vandalism to bullying. It is also the standard used in most civil cases in Illinois.

Under the proposed changes, schools may be required to impose a higher evidentiary standard known as “clear and convincing” - meaning it’s substantially more likely than not that sexual misconduct occurred. It’s a more difficult standard to meet and schools would be forced to use it unless they employ the preponderance standard for other misconduct violations that may end in the same level of discipline AND for complaints against school faculty or staff. Raising the standard of proof would make it even more difficult for student victims of sexual misconduct to get justice or accountability in their cases.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Make Your Voice Heard Through Comment

DeVos’s proposed rule changes would be detrimental to students. Thankfully the rulemaking process allows anyone to submit statements directly to the Department of Education about proposed rule changes, giving us the opportunity to tell them why these regulations would be so harmful. You can defend the strength of Title IX’s protections for survivors through notice and comment!  

Support Initiatives from Student Advocacy Groups

Allies are working to keep sex discrimination out of education. Learn more about their work and support their efforts.

  • Stop Sexual Assault in Schools: provides students, K-12 schools, and organizations resources so that the right to an equal education is not compromised by sexual harassment, sexual assault, and gender discrimination.
  • Know Your IX: a survivor- and youth-led project of Advocates for Youth that aims to empower students to end sexual and dating violence in their schools.
  • End Rape On Campus: Working to end campus sexual violence through direct support for survivors and their communities; prevention through education; and policy reform at the campus, local, state, and federal levels.

Support K-12 Protections in Illinois

Our state has the Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act which codified into state law some of the guidance previous administrations had made in regards to sexual misconduct in schools. The act provides protections for college students, but sexual harassment, abuse, and assault are not limited to higher education. We are advocating for a law that would extend similar protections to primary and secondary students in Illinois regardless of changes to Federal regulations related to sex discrimination. Follow CAASE on Twitter and Facebook to learn more about the bill when it is introduced and when you should start calling your state legislators.


PREVENTION PROGRAMS REVAMPED

The Prevention Department saw some big changes this summer. CAASE hired a new Prevention Manager, Shalini Mirpuri, and a new Educator, Jose Corea. With fresh eyes on our curriculum, we spent the summer revising our signature programs, Empowering Young Men and Empowering Young Women, in order to maintain cultural relevance for our students.

Now that the school year has begun, CAASE educators are engaging students in discussions about gender inequality, while also delving into topics identified as critical during the curricula revamp - including taking a new, in-depth look at consent, the commercial sex trade, and broader systems of oppression that lead to violence against women and marginalized populations. The curriculum has been expanded to five-sessions to provide ample time for discourse and awareness-building activities that will lead to the cultural shifts necessary to end rape culture.

Empowering youth to be allies for gender justice is at the heart of the Prevention Department’s work. It starts with equipping students with the skills and knowledge needed to bring about change. Our partners have noticed this as well. #MeToo is a primary topic of conversation and schools are looking for supplemental education that doesn’t shy away from difficult discussions. Students are longing for this, too. They continue to surprise us every day with their maturity, interest, and passion for ending sexual harm. They’re seeking meaningful and impactful ways to change the norms so that they can build a safer world for everyone. It’s an honor to assist them on this journey!

The recent growth of the Prevention Department comes with endless opportunities for the growth of our students. In addition to maintaining our numerous school partnerships, CAASE is making strides to work with youth in other venues like park districts, art centers, and libraries. We hope to inspire young people to think beyond the possibilities of their classrooms and imagine how they can eliminate violence and harm from their entire community.

To learn more about CAASE's prevention programs, visit our website. You can also read about and request workshops here.


CELEBRATING ACTIVISM RAISES MORE MONEY THAN EVER BEFORE

On October 18, we had a wonderful evening at Celebrating Activism. The annual cocktail reception recognizes CAASE’s work improving laws, educating allies, and championing survivors of sexual violation in Chicago while seeking funds to bolster our work. 145 attendees along with sponsors and donors showed their generous support, raising $38,496 - a record-breaking amount for the fall event - to help CAASE continue in our mission to end sexual harm. 

Celebrating Activism also gives us an opportunity to praise the work of allies in the movement. This year, we honored Karla Altmayer and Sheerine Alemzadeh, co-founders and co-directors of Healing to Action, with Outstanding Activist Awards. Their organization supports worker leaders in developing meaningful responses to gender violence in their communities.

Healing to Action is the first organization in the country to address the needs of workers across industries who are facing sexual violence and economic instability. It is also the anchoring organization to the Coalition Against Workplace Sexual Violence – of which CAASE is a member. Karla and Sheerine’s activism has created the space and provided the tools necessary for workers to access the power that is already inside of them and cast it out into the world, together.

See more photos from the night!

While guests joined us in celebrating Karla and Sheerine, they enjoyed delicious hors d'oeuvres and signature cocktails. They were moved by a poetic performance from Cherlnell Lane and deeply touched by a speech from Adam Swanson, a former CAASE legal services client. The two helped illustrate the impact that sexual violation can have on a survivor’s life while illuminating how support can have a tremendous impact on the healing process.

We are so grateful to all those who supported Celebrating Activism and cannot wait to host the event again next year. The generous backing of our sponsors, including Skadden, Mayer Brown, Boomerang Information Services, Motorola Solutions, Corboy & Demetrio, United, Strategic Talent Solutions, MB Financial Bank, and Tito’s Handmade Vodka, coupled with attendees’ contributions is a compelling testament to the power of our community to join together to end sexual harm.

If you would like to support CAAES’s work, please consider making a donation.


AG CANDIDATES' RESPOND TO QUESTIONNAIRE ON GENDER VIOLENCE

Sexual and domestic violence is epidemic throughout Chicago and our state, affecting people from all walks of life. Because the Illinois Attorney General’s Office has wide-ranging authority in the implementation and enforcement of policies addressing these issues, leaders and anti-violence experts from six Chicago-based organizations, including CAASE, asked our AG candidates to complete a questionnaire about their plans for the following and more:

  • Ensuring colleges and universities comply with the Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act
  • Managing the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program
  • Providing training and seminars to law enforcement regarding gender-based violence
  • Administering the Violent Crime Victims Assistance Fund and the Domestic Violence Fund

We received responses from Erika Harold and Kwame Raoul. We hope the candidates' responses will help inform your vote for the Nov. 6 election.

Harold's Reply
Raoul's Reply

The questionnaire was prepared and presented by:


Want more help deciding who you will support during the Nov. 6th election? Learn about candidates at vote411 or BallotReadyNot sure if you are registered or still need to? Click here.


CONVICTION OF JASON VAN DYKE MARKS WATERSHED MOMENT FOR CHICAGO

10/5/18

Today Officer Jason Van Dyke was convicted of second degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery for the 2014 police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. In a world where it remains uncommon for police officers to be held accountable for the harm they cause, especially to black and brown communities, the outcome of this case marks a watershed moment for Chicago. We are hopeful that today's verdict is a demonstration of a new commitment within society to the fact that black lives matter.

People who have lived through sexual violation are all too familiar with the justice system failing to operate justly. Like our city’s communities of color, the survivors have a well-found distrust of police and they too are often ignored, disbelieved, and silenced. Together through civic engagement and peaceful protest, however, we can shift the priorities of our government and create meaningful and lasting change. Indeed, these actions are likely why Van Dyke was ever charged in the first place. We stand with Chicago’s black and brown communities as they continue to raise their voices and demand accountability for the violence perpetrated against them.


DEMANDING A FAIR CONFIRMATION PROCESS

10/4/18

As attorneys and advocates for survivors of sexual harm, we are deeply disappointed by the process the Senate is using to continually advance Judge Brett Kavanaugh towards a seat on the Supreme Court. Our opposition to his confirmation is not based on partisan political philosophy or in our expectations about his future positions. It is rooted in our belief that survivors deserve to be heard, fairly and fully.

The Senate’s refusal to direct the FBI to conduct a full background investigation was disrespectful not only to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez, but all survivors who have bravely spoken up. They do so at great risk to themselves, often facing lasting consequences for telling the truth. The Senate has signaled to them, and those who have not yet shared their experience of sexual harm, that the risk is not worth it. That their pain and the damaging actions of their abusers don’t matter.

Some argue that Kavanaugh deserves the benefit of the doubt, is innocent until proven guilty, or that the allegations have not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Those of us who are attorneys understand that none of those standards ought to apply. The confirmation hearings were not a criminal trial, but a chance to determine whether Kavanaugh has demonstrated his suitability to serve for a lifetime on the Supreme Court. His unprofessional, dishonest, partisan testimony should have been enough to disqualify him from a position that requires integrity, impartiality, and an even temperament.

Photograph by Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg / Getty

The legitimacy of our country’s highest court is at stake. Determining whether someone should serve as a Justice is one of the Senate’s most impactful decisions, with far-reaching and long-lasting consequences. Whoever is confirmed will determine many of our fundamental rights and protections - from options involving our healthcare to criminal justice standards to discrimination in the workplace and schools. Judge Brett Kavanaugh has shown us he is unfit for this appointment. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez have told us. His former classmates and peers have, too. Now it’s time to tell our Senators to vote ‘no’ on his confirmation.


 

HONORING OUR PRO BONO PARTNERS

9/6/18

Through CAASE’s Pro Bono Project, private firm attorneys work on behalf of local survivors of sexual assault and sex trafficking. CAASE attorneys asses clients’ legal needs and eligibility for services, link them with trained pro bono attorneys, and provide ongoing support and mentorship to pro bono attorneys representing CAASE-referred clients. Each year we hold an event to share our appreciation for the hard work and successes of the firms and pro bono attorneys who dedicate their time and energy to survivors of sexual exploitation and violence by providing them with exceptional representation.

This year we honored the law firm Mayer Brown and presented the award to their Pro Bono Advisor, Marc Kadish. Mayer Brown has been an ally to CAASE by hosting trainings and taking on complicated legal matters on behalf of survivors. We also honored individual attorneys, George Haines and Lisa Holl-Chang, for their work in representing survivors of sex trafficking through the Justice for Victims of Sex Trafficking Act (JVST) and setting precedent for vacating convictions obtained long after the survivor left their trafficker.

Honorees George Haines, Lisa Holl-Chang, and Marc Kadish discussing their work on behalf of survivors at CAASE's Pro Bono Awards. See more photos here.

Lisa Holl-Chang, Marc Kadish and George Haines of Mayer Brown with Pro Bono Awards. See more photos here.

CAASE’s Pro Bono Project is a vital part of our Legal Program. It helps us serve more clients, provides high-quality representation to survivors, and connects attorneys with fulfilling volunteer opportunities. If you are interested in getting involved with our Pro Bono Project, contact Rachel Johnson at rjohnson@caase.org.


3 NEW LAWS CAASE IS PROUD TO GET BEHIND

9/5/18

Over the past few weeks, Governor Rauner has signed several bills into law that will have a positive impact on the safety, well-being, and dignity of survivors of sexual harm in our state. Three in particular stand out:

1. Police Can No Longer Claim “Consensual” Sexual Contact with Someone in Custody: Custodial Sexual Misconduct - HB5597 is effective immediately

Police commonly interact with vulnerable citizens, be they victims, suspects, witnesses, or people on probation. The power dynamics at play are undeniable. This law recognizes that imbalance by making clear it’s never appropriate for an officer to engage in sexual contact with someone who is in custody or detained. The law bars police from claiming such contact was consensual, a common defense in rape and sexual abuse cases - including those involving officers and people in custody. It is a step in the right direction toward addressing the systemic abuse of power by law enforcement officers.

We thank Representative Juliana Stratton for introducing this legislation and Senator Toi W. Hutchinson for serving as the Chief Senate Sponsor.

2. Victims of Trafficking Can Seal Court Records - a tool for moving past their abuse and exploitation - HB5494 is effective immediately

Traffickers commonly force those they exploit to commit crimes, leaving victims with lengthy criminal records. These records and stigma relating to their criminal history follow survivors long after they are able to leave abusive circumstances, barring them from education, employment, and volunteer opportunities. This law creates a petition process to immediately seal criminal records, helping survivors move beyond a traumatic past towards the life they envision for themselves.

We thank Representative Ann M. Williams for introducing this legislation and Senator Toi W. Hutchinson for serving as the Chief Senate Sponsor.

3. Survivors Will Receive Medical Treatment from Specially Trained Professionals: SASETA Amendments - HB5245 will be fully effective in 2022

Currently, a victim’s experience in seeking medical treatment after sexual violation can be drastically different depending on which hospital they go to and who is working at the time. That's because many emergency rooms do not have staff trained to treat patients with sexual trauma or to collect evidence (a “rape kit”). While comprehensive training to become a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) has been available at no cost for years, most hospitals haven’t supported staff seeking certification. Medical professionals regularly spend their own time and money, often dipping into PTO, to travel to and attend training programs.

SASETA’s amendments address these issues and more. They will require any hospital identifying as a ‘sexual assault treatment facility’ to have SANEs on call 24/7. The amendments also allow survivors under the age of 13 to be treated at approved pediatric clinics - environments that may be less intimidating and more comfortable for children.

These requirements, which are fully effective in 2022, should improve survivor’s experiences in the ER, expand medical personnel expertise in treating sexual trauma, and improve the evidence collected in these cases for increased successful prosecutions.

We thank Representative Michael D. Unes for introducing this legislation and Senator Julie A. Morrison for serving as the Chief Senate Sponsor. We also thank Attorney General Lisa Madigan for championing these amendments.

CAASE celebrates the signing of these bills into law and praises the hard work of the legislatures that passed them.

 


BACK TO SCHOOL FOR PREVENTION 

8/22/18

Students have returned to the classroom and so have CAASE Educators. They spent the summer evaluating data from the 2017-18 school year and gleaning insights that helped them prepare for this year. Some of the highlights include:

To discover more, check out this one page summary of our prevention programs’ impact.

We are proud of the effect our prevention programs continue to have and look forward to the changes this year will bring, such as more in-depth curriculum about consent and sexual assault. Another exciting aspect is our new Prevention team! We are proud to introduce Shalini Murpuri as our Prevention Manager and Jose Corea as our Prevention Educator.

Shalini attended the University of Florida where she earned her Master’s in Education, Marriage & Family Therapy. She has valuable experience in sexual violence prevention; creating and implementing interpersonal violence prevention education for the Sexual Trauma Interpersonal Violence Education program during her time at UF. She also served as a Graduate Assistant for Multicultural & Diversity Affairs where she provided culturally-responsive and identity-based education to promote student success for underserved student populations.

 Jose holds a Master’s degree in English Literature from California State University. Upon graduating, he gained 5 years of higher education teaching experience, during which he successfully created and implemented curricula for courses of varying difficulty. He independently incorporated relevant cultural issues, including feminist topics such as the evolution of gender roles, consent, and how different cultures deal with sexual assault and harassment, while also making sure his classes met learning outcomes.

With the benefit of years of experience in the classroom, rigorous evaluation of our programs and the valuable input of students from the 2017-2018 academic year, CAASE will continue to make a positive impact during this semester and beyond.

To learn more about CAASE's prevention programs, visit our website. You can also read about and request workshops here.


PAINTING WITH PURPOSE

8/8/18

Learning, art, and activism blended this summer at the Skokie Public Library. A group of teens gathered each Wednesday for 6 weeks to collaborate with Milton Coronado, a CAASE Educator and graffiti artist, on a mural inspired by efforts to end sexual harm.

Jarrett Dapier, Young Adult Librarian at the Skokie Public Library, connected with our Prevention Education Program about providing summer programming for teens. Milton proposed a multi-week partnership that incorporated a mural. The library gave the project the green light, calling it Artists for Equality. Milton’s artistic talent and expertise empowering youth to end sexual harm laid a foundation for the creative program.

Artists for Equality kicked off with a learning session where participants absorbed information about personal boundaries, sexual harm, and exploitation. The group took what they learned and creatively expressed it through sketches. Milton gathered the group's ideas and synthesized them into one cohesive piece that he presented to the group. The teens were proud to see elements of their drawings combine to make a unified concept. Milton’s work made them even more excited to start painting! He taught them how to control the medium, showing the group how to manipulate spray paint cans to produce different effects. The group began practicing on the wall, honing the skills it would take to make their vision a reality.

Over the next few weeks, the teens got to work creating their bold painting with a purpose. Everyone pitched in and had a blast working together. As you can see, the teamwork paid off. On August 1st, they completed the project and have something to be truly proud of. The mural will bring color and life to the library for years to come while engaging viewers on the issue of sexual harm.

See more photos on our Facebook!

Milton was able to use his unique artistic talent to connect with this group and show them that creativity has a role to play in creating change. While Milton is moving on from CAASE, we wish him luck in his artistic career and appreciate the lasting impression he has made in Skokie by guiding this mural and much more broadly by empowering countless youth throughout Chicago to end sexual harm during his time with our organization.

To learn more about Milton’s art, visit his website at http://www.crownedart.com.


NOTE OF GRATITUDE AND WELL WISHES FOR CALEB

8/7/18

Dear CAASE allies and friends,

This month CAASE is saying a fond goodbye to our longtime colleague Caleb Probst, who is leaving his role as CAASE's Education Manager to enter a Ph.D. program out of state. While all of us will miss Caleb's wisdom, humor, and kindness, his visionary work is deeply rooted and thriving at CAASE. We remain fully committed to continuing and growing the high-impact, cutting-edge programming that Caleb has played a critical role in establishing here.

When CAASE's Founder and dear friend Rachel Durchslag, who was responsible for recruiting Caleb to CAASE in the first place, heard of his departure she eloquently articulated what a pleasure it had been to work with Caleb and I couldn't agree more. I think you will enjoy her thoughts as well:

When Caleb and I first began working together around ten years ago, the movement to end the demand for sexually exploited individuals in Chicago was in its infancy. By joining the movement so early on, Caleb truly became a pioneer of innovation in this work.

It's is a gift to know, let alone work with, a man who embodies the values of feminism, social justice, and racial equity so beautifully. With every project he did at CAASE, Caleb brought not only these values but his heart, his creativity, his intellect, and unflinching belief that through preventative education we could begin to heal a fragmented world.

When I reflect back on my time at CAASE, what continually rises to the surface as one of my most proud initiatives was the prevention work Caleb and I did together. His commitment to the cause coupled with his amazing educator abilities has shaped the hearts and minds of hundreds of young men in Chicago around issues of sexual assault. And his work on the curriculum has had the ripple effect of being used throughout the world to help enlist young men in the fight to end sexual harm.

Caleb helped shape what CAASE, as an organization, has become. And his influence will be felt with everything the organization does moving forward. It was an honor to work with him and I am truly excited to see what this next phase of his life will bring.

- Rachel Durchslag

Caleb at the 2017 Celebrating Allies CAASE fundraiser with our Board President, Ross, Prevention Intern Abby, and Policy Director, Megan,

It has been a true privilege and pleasure to be Caleb's colleague and supervisor (or "Boss-Lady" as Caleb sometimes referred to me), my sentiments about him are perfectly echoed in Rachel's letter. We thank Caleb for all he has contributed to CAASE. We're excited to continue the programs he established and welcome our new Prevention Manager Shalini Mirpuri.

The final portion of Caleb's time with us has been spent training Shalini. She has valuable experience in sexual violence prevention, coming to us from the University of Florida where she created and implemented interpersonal violence prevention education for the Sexual Trauma Interpersonal Violence Education or STRIVE program. She also served as a Graduate Assistant for Multicultural & Diversity Affairs where she provided culturally-responsive and identity-based education to promote student success for underserved student populations. We welcome her to our team and to Chicago!


Executive Director


MAP DRAWN FOR OUR NEXT 3 YEARS

8/3/18

After months of research, reflection, collaboration, visioning, and work, CAASE has a new strategic plan! It was adopted by our Board of Directors in July and describes our focus for the next 3 years. The plan is filled with fresh objectives and stable growth centered on four capacity areas identified through organization-wide analysis: Board/Governance, Community Role, Marketing and Communications, and Resource Development. The plan also stresses the need to infuse Intersectional Equity into these areas and throughout the entire organization.

CAASE's Strategic Plan Executive Summary for FY2018-2021 gives an excellent overview of the work that lies ahead as we continue our commitment to end sexual harm and demand change.

We are pleased to share this roadmap with you and hope to have your support along the way! If you would like, you may download a copy of the Executive Summary.

Excited about what's ahead? Donate to CAASE to support the objectives laid out in the plan.

You can stay up to date on CAASE work by subscribing to our newsletter and following CAASE on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


CITY DOUBLES DOWN ON FAILED EFFORTS TO END PROSTITUTION

7/26/18

This week a city ordinance ostensibly designed to fight prostitution became law. Sadly, it doubles down on the city’s failed efforts to end prostitution while rejecting every established best practice for crime reduction. It adds another nonviolent charge to the books and a new mandatory minimum jail sentence. Most disappointingly, it punishes people who rarely have better options for surviving and are often victims of sex trafficking.

The new law allows the Superintendent to designate prostitution-free hotspots - which he’s not required to publicly identify - and authorizes police to target, detain, and arrest people in them if they are “loitering for the purposes of prostitution”. The law doesn’t identify what an officer can consider when assessing unlawful conduct, begging the question if wearing a skirt of a certain length or waiting for a ride will invite arrest in particular neighborhoods. Additionally, existing loitering-related enforcement unfairly targets racial and ethnic minorities. It’s distressing but reasonable to expect more of the same disproportionate impact on already marginalized populations, including homeless youth, one-third of which are forced to trade sex for survival, and trans women who engage in survival sex at a rate 10 times higher than cis women due to poverty and discrimination.

History and social science prove that arresting and prosecuting sex sellers does not decrease prostitution. This fact promoted Illinois to change state law by providing a safe haven for minors in prostitution, defelonizing sex-selling, and increasing incentives for buyer-targeted policing. Smart communities place blame for the sex trade on buyers - who are overwhelmingly men with disposable income, buying sex in neighborhoods they don’t live in, and who can be deterred with prevention education and financial penalties. Chicago claims to understand this - it’s why at the same time City Council passed the terrible loitering ordinance, they amended city code to increase fines for buying sex and nominally decrease fines for selling. However, if Chicago’s leaders truly understood, policing and legislation would look very different.

The Chicago Reporter revealed that 90% of the CPD’s prostitution-related arrests are for selling sex, not buying. Given that the overwhelming majority of people ‘involved in prostitution’ are male buyers, while sellers are predominantly female, this disparity is both disturbing and discriminatory. The severe penalties embedded in the anti-loitering law are also contemptible. Fines up to $500 are laughably out-of-reach for most in the sex trade and a mandatory minimum 5 days’ incarceration for a second offense is outrageous, particularly in a community that celebrates Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx joining a task force aimed at reducing the number of incarcerated women. Finally, the third offense penalty of a 30-day ban on being present in a “hotspot” fails to recognize that many people who sell sex face huge barriers to accessing housing, safety, or needed services in any community outside of the ones they know well.

There’s a lot Aldermen can, and should, do to end the sex trade in their communities but they seem to need some pointers. Here’s how to start: seek accountability from CPD by asking why it’s not targeting sex buyers and demand change. Address the issues driving people into selling in the first place, such as economic hardship and housing insecurity. Do so by passing Alderman Pawar’s Universal Basic Income ordinance, and Alderman Waguespeck’s Fair Workweek Ordinance. Join the #fightfor15 movement. Deliver more affordable and public housing options. The list goes on but that’s a start. Punishing people who don’t have better options for surviving will do nothing to end the sexual exploitation of our community’s most vulnerable members. Creating real opportunities will.


THE RACE FOR CAASE TEAM PUSHED PAST THE FINISHLINE

7/7/18

Last month, the Race for CAASE Team crossed the finish line in the Race Against Gun Violence. 78 people pledged their run and raised funds to support CAASE's cutting-edge Prevention Programs. But they didn't stop at the end of the course. Supporters continued to donate, raising a total of $31,000! 
We thank everyone who supported the team and participated.

Watch this short recap video to relive the fun event!


BEST WISHES TO XENIA, OUR PILI FELLOW

6/25/18

The mission of the Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) is to cultivate a lifelong commitment to public interest law and pro bono service within the Illinois legal community to expand the availability of legal services for people, families, and communities in need. One way PILI fulfills that mission is by running its Graduate Fellowship Program. The program places new associates from Chicago law firms at public interest law agencies in Illinois, where they work hundreds of hours between law school graduation and joining the firm. Fellows are paid by their hiring firm, allowing them to gain working experience serving people suffering from abuse, discrimination, divorce, eviction and other civil legal problems. This exposure often fosters a passion for assisting those in need throughout their legal career.

CAASE joins 60+ other Illinois agencies as a PILI partner. The fellowship program attracts some of the best and brightest law school graduates and this year was no exception. We were delighted to host Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law graduate Xenia Chiu, who was sponsored by Sidley Austin LLP where she’ll begin working this fall. Xenia applied for CAASE's position because she is passionate about ending sexual harm. She was already involved with us as a member of CAASE's Young Professional Board but wanted to learn more about our work and spend her fellowship addressing issues she cares deeply about. It was a perfect fit!

Adela, Christine, Xenia, Mallory, Rachel, and Danielle of the CAASE Legal Team.

During her time with CAASE, Xenia helped the legal team with research and prepared legal documents such as motions, discovery requests, and opening statements. She also spent many hours observing cases in the courtroom. Xenia says "Hearing the facts of sexual assault cases was challenging but I was rewarded by the experience of being an ally to survivors and gaining a substantive understanding of CAASE's work. I loved working for an organization that takes a holistic approach to address sexual harm".

While Xenia learned a lot from CAASE during her fellowship, she also gave us a lot, too! She went above and beyond her duties every step of the way. She served on the Race for CAASE host committee and joined as a team member, pledging a run and raising funds to support sexual harm prevention programs. She also remains on CAASE's Young Professional Board and plans to continue her involvement. She looks forward to one day joining CAASE's Pro Bono Project, too.

Xenia helped raise funds for CAASE as a member of the Race for CAASE team host committee and by participating as a runner.

We wish Xenia all the best as her fellowship comes to a close, she prepares for the bar exam and starts her legal career. In the spirit of PILI, we know she holds dear the lessons she has learned about what it means to stand up for those who need help the most. We look forward to her continued support - she'll always have ours.


THANK YOU TO THE RACE FOR CAASE TEAM!

6/8/18

The Race for CAASE Team was beaming as they crossed the finish line in yesterday's Race Against Gun Violence. 78 people pledged their run and raised funds to support CAASE's cutting-edge Prevention Programs. Their commitment to ending sexual harm and diligent work fundraising resulted in a $28,331 boost toward educating young people to deter and prevent sexual harm. 

Their fantastic efforts put us within reach of our $40,000 goal! Our team has until June 17th to reach this milestone amount and you can help. Celebrate the team's accomplishment by donating today! You'll be supporting prevention, plus it's your chance to increase the impact of every dollar as your donation will be partially matched by the Greer Foundation.


The 2018 Race for CAASE Team. Check out more photos here!


We are so grateful to everyone who has or will give. Our runners, walkers, volunteers, and donors showed us amazing support and we know others will join them by the June 17th deadline. We want to especially thank this year's sponsors - Escutcheon, Monahan Law GroupPerkins CoieAlexander MoversVMaidsA.S. Baum, and Moll Law Group - for giving our team the jump start they needed! 

CAASE also wants to uplift Strides for Peace for organizing the Race Against Gun Violence. They did a wonderful job bringing together anti-violence organizations from across Chicago and we were excited to be a part of the event. By participating, CAASE honored its commitment to meeting survivors where they are - as people embedded in communities with unique, important concerns and priorities. 

We'd also like to recognize our Race Team Committee members, Amy Kohn, Kaethe Morris Hoffer, Margot Gordon, Sarah Crocker, Emily Bergman, Michael Ovca, Cara Ward, and Xenia Chiu for their efforts in making make this a successful event!

Remember, you have until June 17th to support the Race for CAASE Team. Help them reach their goal now!


SEXUAL HARASSMENT HEADLINES HAVE STUDENTS TALKING

CAASE Helps Steer the Conversation

6/5/18

A wave of sexual harassment and assault allegations has washed over media headlines these past eight months. As survivors raise their voices, many adults grapple with how to explain these situations to young people. The Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE) prevention workshops have helped guide youth conversations about harmful sexual behaviors for over a decade and, in this moment, their expertise is especially critical.

CAASE prevention workshops (which cover consent, healthy relationships, gender constructs, power dynamics of sexual exploitation, interrupting sexual harm and how to get help) empower students to end sexual harm. Over the past school year, CAASE staff noticed student participants were more aware of, engaged in, and willing to discuss sexual violation than in years past. In anonymous written feedback, CAASE saw an increase in students reflecting on their own experiences with sexual harm compared to previous years. Their "MeToo" stories described violations that had happened to them or to a friend. Many youth participants were also inspired to write about the challenges they face in having healthy relationships in today's society and what they can do to change it. For example, one wrote, "I will approach dating with respect and I will make sure that everything is consensual".

It's impossible to credit the uptick in student reflections on these issues to any one factor. But, it's also impossible to ignore that this shift in student feedback is happening within a cultural sea change sparked by the #MeToo movement. Students are speaking up more than ever. They are seeking answers and ways to be part of the solution. But students aren't the only ones being empowered.

Many teachers confided in CAASE staff, saying they felt ill-equipped to dig deeper into conversations around harmful sexual behavior with students. They worried it was a topic too big to tackle so they avoided it. After CAASE provided students with educational workshops on sexual harm, teachers expressed feeling more confident in addressing sexual harassment and unpacking headlines with their pupils. Seeing CAASE engage students on tough topics set an example for the adults regularly in students' lives. Teachers' willingness and preparedness to have these conversations is invaluable.

The 2017-18 school year was unique; it was steeped in a culture having new conversations about sexual harassment and the meaning of gender equality. As a result, students engaged with issues of sexual harm and healthy relationships more deeply this year. We hope for more of the same next year.

CAASE offers a variety of workshops, including content on consent, healthy masculinity, sex trafficking, and pimping. All are available for free to schools and programs that work with teens. Each workshop is designed to meet a group's individual needs. They are available in 45-, 60-, or 90-minute versions and can be implemented with groups as small as 10 and as large as 200. Interested groups should email info@caase.org or call 773-244-2230 for more information.


LEGAL ADVOCACY BOOT CAMP

6/4/18

Our Legal Team kicked off the month by facilitating a Legal Advocacy Boot Camp. The day-long training provided advocates who serve survivors of sexual assault with an overview of how various legal and institutional remedies may assist their clients. Attendees from Metropolitan Family Services, RVA, YWCA Metropolitan Chicago, Mujeres Latinas en Accion, and Howard Brown Health Center gained information that will allow them to provide more options to those they serve.

Our Legal Director Christine Evans, Senior Staff Attorney Mallory Littlejohn, and Staff Attorney Rachel Johnson covered several topics that impact survivors. The day was broken into sections reviewing Criminal Justice Advocacy & Victims’ Rights, Civil No Contact Orders & Domestic Violence Court, Educational Advocacy & Title IX, and Employment Advocacy & Workplace Sexual Violence.

By learning together, organizations serving survivors of sexual violation are able to support those we serve more effectively. CAASE’s Attorneys were glad they could provide expert insight and advice at this training and look forward to the next one! We thank Metropolitan Family Services for hosting the boot camp and everyone who attended for making it a great success.

If your organization serves survivors of sexual harm and is interested in a legal training, email info@caase.org to learn more.


WELCOME LEGAL INTERNS

5/24/18

Each summer, CAASE hosts legal interns who help our attorneys serve survivors. This year is no exception and we warmly welcome Brandi Bolton of John Marshall Law School, Leslie Hill of DePaul Law School and Kelly Ehrenreich of University of Michigan Law School.

These exceptional law students received training (pictured) from each of our departments, giving them an understanding of the work CAASE does as a whole and how legal services fit into our broader mission. This overview will serve them well as they spend the next few months assisting with legal research/writing, conducting client interviews, and communicating with clients about their case status. They will also observe court appearances and participate in initial client consultations.

Above: The Prevention Team (Abby Juhlmann, Caleb Probst, Milton Coronado) share an overview of their work with the 2018 summer legal interns

Mallory Littlejohn, a CAASE Sr. Staff Attorney, manages the legal interns. She says, "They're gaining practical legal experience - interacting with real clients, the courts, and getting insight they cannot find in a classroom." She also points out that "They learn a great deal about the challenges facing survivors who are seeking justice through the legal system". That knowledge may stick with them the most. Many past interns wish to continue their allyship with survivors. They stay involved with CAASE, often participating in our Pro Bono Project and connecting our organization with law firms throughout Chicago.

Above: Mallory Littlejohn (left), a CAASE Sr. Staff Attorney, discusses legal documents with the 2018 summer legal interns


Empowering Workers to Use Their Voice Against Sexual Violation

5/8/18

Since last fall, millions of survivors have called out workplace sexual violence using #MeToo. In response, survivors in Chicago from diverse backgrounds and blue-collar industries have pressed for a movement of resistance to the tolerance of sexual violence in the workplace, especially for low-wage workers.

The Coalition Against Workplace Sexual Violence (CAWSV), which is comprised of worker rights activists, labor organizations, and anti-gender violence organizations (including CAASE) answered this outcry by organizing Building a #MeToo Worker-Led Resistance. The 2-day convening equipped grassroots organizers and workers with tools to open a dialogue in their communities on the causes of gender-based violence, create safe spaces for workers experiencing gender-based violence, and build individual and institutional allyship in their communities.

During the May 6th and 7th gathering, workshops were co-facilitated by worker leaders and representatives from anti-gender violence organizations. Esther Bolaños, a member of the Domestic Worker and Day Laborer Center of Chicago partnered with CAASE Staff Attorney Rachel Johnson (pictured right) to lead workshops on sexual harassment and the law. Their sessions, titled "Tools for Survivors", clarified the legal definition of sexual harassment and discussed how to identify it. Participants also had the chance practice reporting misconduct to employers through role-playing.

Esther and Rachel have collaborated over the past few months, becoming a dynamic duo as they share information and encourage dialogue with diverse audiences. Rachel finds the partnership invaluable, saying "CAWSV works at the intersection of workers rights and anti-gender based violence. Co-facilitating workshops with Esther allows us to highlight the interplay between these critical issues and empower workers to use their voice."

CAASE is proud to work with the allied organizations that compose CAWSV, which made Building a #MeToo Worker-Led Resistance a success. The convening's 40+ participants are better prepared to exercise their rights, prevent workplace sexual harm, and share what they learned in their own communities.

Above: CAWSV members at Building a #MeToo Worker-Led Resistance. 

Learn more about CAWSV here.


5/6/18

2017 was a big year for CAASE! We provided legal services to more survivors than ever before, empowered thousands of Chicago youth through prevention programs, successfully advocated for public policies that will reduce sexual harm, and engaged with the greater community on issues related to sexual harm. Check out our work and progress over the past calendar year on our annual "2017 At a Glance". 


Now That We're Men: an honest look at stepping into manhood

4/16/18

Last week, The Steppenwolf Theater and several area high schools welcomed performances of the play Now That We’re Men. The brutally honest piece, written by Katie Cappiello, examines how teenage boys navigate their journey to manhood. The play’s five characters compose a high school friend group whose interactions drive the narrative. The collective story is suspended when each young man breaks into a deeply personal monologue reflecting thoughts and feelings influenced by rape culture and social expectations.

The play explores the topics of consent, power, porn, sexual orientation, masculinity, and sex. Now That We’re Men doesn’t sugar coat these themes. It truthfully lies out, in language heard in high schools across the country, the conversations and inner dialogues of adolescent men. The play's realism supercharges its impact on audiences – especially teens.

Viewers find themselves recognizing the characters as someone they have known, remembering comparable conversations, and recalling similar conflicts from their life whether they happened last semester or last decade. CAASE congratulates Cappiello on creating a work of such relevance and relatability for high school students. It is a powerful tool for engaging young people on the topics it explores. 


CAASE linked Now That We’re Men with Evanston Township High School (ETHS) to arrange a staged reading as part of the school's Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) campaign. Nearly 600 students, faculty, and CAASE staff members were absorbed by the performance. Following the reading, Cappiello and the cast provided a talkback allowing students to ask questions, comment on, and connect the play’s situations with their lives. Students asked how they could be “part of the solution” when it comes to sexual harm, highlighting the power of the piece for adolescence. We hope many more have the chance to experience it!

Click to learn more about Now That We’re Men.

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Left to right: Hayley Forrestal (CAASE Communications Manager), Kaethe Morris Hoffer (CAASE Exc. Director),Caleb Grandoit, Fred Hechinger, Rayshawn Richardson (NTWM Cast Members), Charlotte Arnoux (NTWM Assistant Director and Associate Producer), Katie Cappiello (NTWM Writer and Director ), Marquis Rodrigue (NTWM, filled in for Alphonso Jones for the ETHS performance), and Jordan Eliot (NTWM Cast).

 

 


SURVIVORS' PROJECT AMPLIFIES VOICES

4/2/2018

Over the past year, Marion Brooks of NBC Chicago worked to compile survivors' stories of sexual violence from around Chicago into the 'Survivors Project'. Participants shared their pain in hopes of helping others who have had similar experiences -- in hopes of helping other “victims” become “survivors.” We thank Venesa, a former client of CAASE, for contributing. You have encouraged others by saying #metoo. We also thank Marion Brooks for amplifying these voices.


TROUBLED BY ‘Pretty Woman’? SPEND YOUR MONEY ELSEWHERE

3/31/2018

In her piece for the Chicago Sun-Times, Katie Watson gave 'Pretty Women' a needed re-write. Read 'In #MeToo era, let’s flip the script for ‘Pretty Woman’' to see why she made a donation to CAASE   instead of buying tickets to the musical. CAASE thanks Katie for the gift and for reminding potential audience members about the realities of sexual exploitation.


PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE

3/29/18

It’s abundantly clear that we are living in a historic moment. The issues of sexual violence and gender equality have captured the world's attention in a way that seemed impossible a year ago. We can’t think of a better time to reflect on where CAASE has been and plan a future filled with possibility and growth. Propelled by the momentum of this moment, we embark on crafting a new strategic plan.

Morten Group, the consulting firm guiding us through this process, conducted a comprehensive three-month long assessment of CAASE. Data regarding a multitude of organizational aspects was collected from stakeholders, clients, partners, staff, and others. Morten Group analyzed the data, compiled a report, and presented the findings to staff and board at a work retreat on March 9.

The report was presented, identifying 4 areas we should focus on to maximize CAASE's impact: Resource Development, Board/Governance, Marketing and Communications, and Community Role. Participants broke into groups assigned to one of these areas. Teams dove into crafting organization objectives to be addressed over the next few years. Each workgroup shared their ideas with the whole retreat before closing the day with assignments to refine objectives and set goals with measurements for success.

Our workgroups will continue, with the help of Morton Group, to develop plans over the coming months. Everyone's efforts will be rewarded with a unified strategic plan that provides a clear map for CAASE’s future.

You can stay up to date on the strategic planning process by subscribing to our newsletter and following CAASE on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


OAK PARK ORDINANCE

Trafficked people and massage therapists get much-needed protections

3/29/18

This winter, CAASE assisted Oak Park village officials in furthering anti-trafficking and anti-sexual harassment clauses in their massage business license ordinance. This change came after multiple illicit massage business were investigated in the National John’s Suppression Initiative, led by the Cook County Sheriff.

The success of the ordinance - which passed unanimously - was due to the leadership and advocacy of Oak Park Village Trustee Simone Boutet. She reached out to CAASE and the Massage Advocacy Project of Working America last fall as the proposal was being drafted. Because of her diligent work and foresight to include expert organizations, both trafficked people and massage therapists have much-needed protections to limit commercial sex trade and sexual harassment within massage establishments. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, callers most frequently indicate illicit massage businesses when reporting sex trafficking to the hotline.

This ordinance will better regulate massage establishments in Oak Park. Requirements include background checks for all business applicants, ensuring an anti-sexual harassment policy is in place, and posting written notices reminding customers it is illegal to solicit a therapist for sex acts. The ordinance also supports massage therapists who are sexually harassed or assaulted by ensuring they can safely report any incidents without repercussions. This is critical because some customers assume they can purchase sex acts at these businesses.

No legitimate massage business would object to these proactive steps to ensure the safety and health of both their employees and customers. CAASE thanks Trustee Boutet for her efforts, and hopes other communities in the Chicago area follow the village’s lead by working with expert organizations to craft and pass similar ordinances to counter all forms of sexual harm.

If you suspect human trafficking is taking place, you should submit a tip online or call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.


WELCOME NEW STAFF 

3/28/18

Over the past few months, CAASE has filled 4 positions - 2 of which are new to the organization. We are excited about this growth and thrilled to gain professionals who will help CAASE reach higher levels of success for our clients, stakeholders and the community at large. We welcome our new staff and would like to introduce them:

Danielle Johnson, Senior Staff Attorney

Danielle graduated from SIU School of Law in 2009 and began working as an Assistant State’s Attorney at Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office (CCSAO). She was successful at the CCSAO and was promoted several time, eventually serving the Delinquency side of Juvenile Court. In this role, Danielle prosecuted cases from investigation, to charging, to sentencing stages. Danielle spent nearly 6 years at CCSAO prosecuting over 200 trials including 5 jury trials.

At CAASE, Danielle is in charge of Criminal Justice Advocacy. She represents rape victims and ensure their rights are upheld. She also conducts trainings related to law and sexual violation for various audiences and provides supervision and mentoring to junior attorneys. Contact Danielle at djohnson@caase.org.

Jenny Dawson, Operations Associate

After studying mathematics at the University of California, Davis, Jenny began working in operations. She gained 9 years of experience in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors. Prior to joining CAASE, she applied her skills as a consultant for small businesses, focusing on improving the efficacy of systems and procedures. Jenny is passionate about using her talents to support and further the mission of CAASE.

Her role at CAASE includes providing support to the Operations Director in all operations activities - specifically bookkeeping, office management, volunteer management and support for special events. Contact Jenny at jdawson@caase.org.

Madeleine Behr, Policy Associate

Madeleine worked as a government and investigative reporter at USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin in Appleton, and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism in Madison. Originally from the Chicago suburbs, Madeleine is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with bachelor’s degrees in journalism and legal studies.

At CAASE, she works with the Policy Director to build and strengthen relationships related to promoting policy and legislation locally and statewide. Contact Madeleine at mbehr@caase.org.

Hayley Forrestal, Communications Manager

Hayley found a passion for gender equality in college. Following graduation, she began working as a graphic designer and marketing associate while volunteering her free time advocating for survivors through Kankakee County Center Against Sexual Assault. She loved volunteering so much that she delighted in the opportunity to work for the Center as their Communications Coordinator and Prevention Educator. Five years and one move later, Hayley found her place at CAASE and is thrilled to work for an organization seeking to address the full spectrum of sexual harm.

As Communications Manager, she supports CAASE’s brand, external communication, marketing, and relationship with the media. Contact Hayley at hforrestal@caase.org.

CAASE is grateful to have added so much talent to our team. We look forward to seeing all the ways their contributions advance our mission.


WHY CAASE SUPPORTS SESTA FOSTA

It’s been delayed before, but the US Senate appears to be on the verge of voting on “SESTA/FOSTA”, a bill CAASE strongly supports. The bill is currently scheduled for consideration in the Senate on Monday.

Right now, individual pimps and traffickers can be sued or prosecuted for the role they play in exploiting prostituted children and adults. However, websites that knowingly promote and profit from exploitation are protected from being held accountable for their role in hurting people who are in the sex trade against their will. SESTA/FOSTA, a strongly bipartisan bill, seeks to change that. The bill would allow people who have been hurt by traffickers to sue internet companies, like Backpage.com, which makes millions every year from online sex ads.

Some people argue that this law will be used to hinder people who choose to be in the sex trade or deter people from sharing information designed to increase safety and wellness for people in prostitution. This is FALSE: although the law might discourage companies from creating businesses that promote prostitution, this bill doesn’t make advertising prostitution any more, or less, illegal than it’s always been.

CAASE knows this legislation won’t end the commercial sex trade online, but it’s a solid start to hold those at the top accountable for knowingly profiting from sex trafficking. SESTA/FOSTA provides a critical pathway towards justice for anyone whose sexual violation was exploited to generate wealth for digital marketers.

Join CAASE - contact your senators today and ask them to vote in support of the  SESTA/FOSTA bill which already passed the House!

UPDATE: SESTA passed the Senate on 3/21/18 with an overwhelmingly supportive bipartisan vote of 97-2. Thank you to everyone who contacted legislators and raised the voices of survivors. The Bill will move onto the President.


CAASE speaks to defining healthy masculinity and empowering men to become allies

On Friday, August 4th, CAASE Education Manager Caleb Probst joined a panel on engaging boys and men in conversation about healthy masculinity at the annual Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force Conference. Caleb shared his expertise on engaging boys and men in conversations about healthy masculinity, and shared insights with CAASE allies from Detroit-based organization I AM: The Empowerment Project. Their thought-provoking discussion touched on many things, including how pornography, pop culture, and the mass marketing of “hyper masculinity” is impacting young men in every community.

They walked though how to address definitions of healthy masculinity by breaking down the use of language when referring to sex, power, and relationships.  They examined the everyday use of popular phrases to highlight how hyper masculinity plays a part in shaping how young people talk about sex and relationships and how it can reinforce unhealthy, even violent masculinity.

The speakers collectively agreed that it is crucial to have a safe space for young men to discuss these issues freely and how doing so empowers them to challenge the gender norms they encounter on a daily basis. Caleb and the panel explained how prevention education can pave the way for many young men to become positive influences for their peers and change these problematic dynamics.

CAASE’s Prevention education program is available for schools across Chicago including college campuses. If you’re interested in bringing our program to your school, contact Caleb at caleb@caase.org


Allies launch research report that builds strategies to end gender-based violence against low-wage workers

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

Read the full research report here >>


Prevention education at work in the classroom

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! 

Learn more and sign up >> 


Thank you for making CAASE's tenth anniversary a night to remember!

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.

Check out our event photos >>


Breaking the silence with technology: A conversation about reporting campus sexual assault

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.

Read more & see our event photo album>>


Know Your IX panel at Young Feminist Conference

CAASE Executive Director, Kaethe Morris Hoffer, joined a Know Your IX panel on Monday August 15th, which was part of the Young Feminist Conference.

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

Check out our photo album >>


Speaking about demand reduction in Illinois and beyond

The 6th Annual Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force conference was a two-day event of insightful and informative presentations from local and national experts on human trafficking.

CAASE Policy Associate, Melissa Banerjee moderated a unique panel looking at demand reduction strategies for law enforcement and prosecutors.

On the panel, CAASE Policy Director, Lynne Johnson discussed the attitudes and beliefs of johns and how law enforcement attention can have a real impact on reducing demand in different communities. As Johnson pointed out, men mostly buy sex because they can and johns tell us what would deter them including getting arrested, fined, or publicly outed for their actions. 

Michael Garske, a detective in Washington, shared how he spearheaded the take-down of a major buyer review site "K Girl Delights," and his work in consequent johns stings. Lastly, Christine Bayer, a prosecutor in Kane County, discussed the Kane County State's Attorney's Office decision to charge johns with human trafficking crimes.

Check out our photo album >>

Interested in making an impact in your community? Contact Melissa for details at info@caase.org.


State’s Attorney candidates discuss plans to address gender-based violence

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.

Here’s a snippet of  community questions & quotes from the candidates on Twitter:

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.


CAASE educator tackles sexual harassment in comedy communities

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.


Marketing the Movement: Advertising and the fight to end sexual exploitation

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.

Learn more about the campaign >>

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:

  1. Meet people where they are – Cater your message to people’s level of understanding of the issue.
  2. Use solid data – Always be sure your data is accurate and take the time to research the credibility of your information sources.
  3. Use images and messaging to move people to action, not only to feel. Why is your cause urgent?
  4. Be reasonable but not forceful – You can’t create understanding by forcing your views onto others.
  5. Being right instead of “righteous” – Let the lived experiences of the community you serve speak for themselves and make it about justice not about your own feelings of righteousness.

See our photo album >>


JVST creates an even larger impact for one survivor

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.


CAASE's Young Activist Council hosts screening Dreamcatcher, a powerful documentary 

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.

See our full photo album>>

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!


Rockford joins community effort to end demand for sexual exploitation

 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.

See our full photo album>>

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.


CAASE's first house party was a big success, thank you!

On Tuesday, March 31st, CAASE's Executive Director, Kaethe Morris Hoffer opened her lovely home to guests for a special CAASE house party.

Check out these party snapshots! >>

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.

See our full photo album >>


CAASE Staff Attorney presents at University of Chicago event on human trafficking

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.


CAASE joins panel on sex trafficking in Chicago at "A Path Appears" film screening

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.


CAASE's Celebrates Progress by honoring State Senator Toi Hutchinson with Champion Award

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!

See our full photo album >>

CAASE Staff Attorney leads workshop on combating workplace sexual violence through coalitions

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. 


Survivors discuss importance of policy reform at Human Trafficking Conference

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.


Thank you for attending CAASE's Open House!

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 client wins trial, feels heard and protected

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.

To learn more visit our Legal Services page or to schedule a free consultation, please call 773-244-2230, ext. 204. or email veronica@caase.org.


CAASE NEWS: The Young Activist Council tells customers to "Buy Beers, Not People" at bartending fundraiser

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.

Get your t-shirt, today! >> 

 

 


CAASE speaks to college students about sexual assault, their rights, and the law

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 veronica@caase.org.


CAASE and The Whistleblower inspire audience to fight sexual exploitation

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:


CAASE helps raise awareness of the sexual exploitation of farmworker women

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.


CAASE joins human trafficking forum for local leaders and police officers

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 engages attorneys in creative training for litigating workplace sexual violence

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.


CAASE urges Amnesty International to reject prostitution policy proposal

 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.

See Chicago Sun-Times interview with CAASE >>

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.

See Chicago Sun-Times coverage of the rally >>

 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.


CAASE NEWS: Executive Director speaks at Women’s Seder on Human Trafficking

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:

 

 

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