human trafficking

Sue Stephens

Jennifer Cacciapaglia is just days into her role as manager of the Mayor’s Office to combat domestic violence and human trafficking in Rockford, but she says her wheels are turning to develop new strategies to tackle the issue.

Cacciapaglia says it starts with a cultural shift.

“We have to stop asking, ‘Why is that woman staying with this pimp?' or ‘Why is she allowing herself to be sold for sex?’ And we have to start asking, ‘Why do so many of our men grow up until adults who believe it’s an acceptable thing to buy a human being for sex?’”

WNIJ

The issue of human trafficking in northern Illinois is gaining interest among activist groups. They say Rockford ranks second in the state for cases of sexual exploitation. On this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Jessie Schlacks takes a closer look at this “underground business.”

The industry can be so discrete that people don’t even realize they’re being trafficked.

“One day at the pool they saw me there and my vulnerability,” recalls Katariina Rosenblatt. “They recruited me into what I call ‘false friendship.’ That was the beginning of the grooming process.”

Illinois officials continue to remind residents that human trafficking remains a problem. 

It can include being forced to perform labor or work as a prostitute, and often involves minors.  George Sheldon directs the state’s Department of Children and Family Services.  He says there have been 821 allegations of child sex trafficking in the state since 2011.  

Illinois Near Top In Nation For Human Trafficking Cases

Jan 4, 2017
"streetlight" by Flickr User David McGregor

Illinois ranks fifth in the nation for cases of human trafficking.

Public education efforts are underway for National Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services says it investigated 143 reports of trafficking last year, many of which were child victims. 

Trafficking can happen with labor, but sex trafficking is a large component; Rockford is one of the state’s largest hubs for sex trafficking. 

However, Veronica Resa, with DCFS, says incidents can occur just about anywhere.

Flickr user / Milica Sekulic "Mobile Phone" (CC BY 2.0)

A new Illinois law requires certain businesses post a human trafficking hotline number in their establishment.

       

It's designed to increase the awareness of resources to help victims.

Carol Merna is the executive director of the Center for the Prevention of Abuse, located in Peoria.

She says Illinois is a "hot spot" for human trafficking. Many victims of what has been called “modern-day slavery” are U.S. citizens.

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