January is human trafficking awareness month. In Illinois, advocates continue to raise awareness in hopes of preventing such activity.
Advocates say Illinois, especially the Chicago-area, is a hub for human trafficking. With the region serving as a key transportation center, experts say traffickers bring young women here, and then send them out to work in the sex-trade.
Leena Saleh is a spokeswoman for the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation. She says the numbers are staggering.
"In Chicago alone, up to 25-thousand teenagers and young adults are forced to work in the sex industry each year," Saleh said.
Those numbers come from this recent study.
And it's not just a problem in Chicago. Officials say it can be found in the suburbs and rural parts of the state. Overall, Illinois ranks 5th in the nation when it comes to reports of potential human trafficking.
The state has passed laws in recent years to help address the problem. That includes a 2012 law that aims to further protect victims, while giving prosecutors more tools to go after traffickers.
Meanwhile, groups like CASE will continue to push policy-makers to focus less on prostitution arrests, and focus more on traffickers. That's part of the campaign they are leading, called End Demand.
Saleh says they are also working to establish a network of support for survivors of the sex-trade.