Survivor leaders have been at the heart of our End Demand Illinois policy initiatives. Survivor leaders have testified in Springfield on behalf of our bills, spoken to the media about their experiences and struggles, and worked with us to guide our work as a whole.

Here are a few notable highlights of their work:

On March 11, 2015 Janell Wheeler, a member of Visible Voices (a program of EDI partner, Cabrini Green Legal Aid) provided testimony to the Committee and bravely recounted her story as a survivor of human trafficking. Janell illustrated the abuse and coercive tactics faced by survivors at the hands of pimps. Her story greatly impacted the senators in the room, including  Sen. John Mulroe, the bill's sponsor. Janell's testimony garnered such bipartisan support, that the bill passed the hearing unanimously and without debate. 

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The Chicago Tribune ran a front page story in 2013 of Brenda Myers-Powell who was the second survivor of sex trafficking in Illinois to successfully petition to have her prostitution convictions vacated under the Justice for Victims of Sex Trafficking Crimes Act. CAASE’s End Demand Illinois campaign passed this law in 2011 and our legal team provided Brenda free legal representation in the case.

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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) at the 4th Annual Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force Conference in 2015. 

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.

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In 2011, Olivia shared her experience about the exploitation and harm she found working in strip clubs for many years. End Demand Illinois shared Olivia's story to advocate for policy reform including opposing an ordinance that would alcohol in Chicago strip clubs.

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In 2014, CAASE held a fundraiser called Celebrating Progress to honor State Senator Toi Hutchinson with a CAASE Champion Award for her outstanding leadership to end sexual exploitation. Hutchinson is pictured here (center) with survivor leaders  from End Demand Illinois' Survivor Engagement committee who played an important role in passing EDI legislation.