January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. While you may not think that human trafficking is an issue in your community—a 2017 poll in Illinois indicated more than half disagreed that it was happening in their area—in fact, Illinois ranks 11th in the nation in the number of cases of human trafficking.
What is Human Trafficking?
When most people hear about human trafficking, they tend to think of sex trafficking. In terms of reported cases, sex trafficking is the most predominant form of human trafficking in Illinois, but labor trafficking occurs as well. The latter may involve forced domestic work, construction, agricultural work, traveling sales crews, or begging rings.
Human Trafficking in Illinois
In 2018, the state of Illinois released its Illinois Human Trafficking Task Force Report. The report investigated the issue of human trafficking in Illinois and made recommendations for ending the practice. Among the findings from the report are:
- 970 children in Illinois had been trafficked between 2011 and 2017.
- The average age of those children was just under 14 years old.
- Female children make up 87% of those trafficked.
- African American children account for 53% of the children trafficked in Illinois, while white children account for 42%.
Human traffickers recruit children much like sexual predators do. Common methods include:
- Meeting the need for food, clothing, and shelter, particularly with homeless children
- Promises of love, romance, and acceptance
- Offers of independence, luxury items, and cash
- Flattery, lies, and manipulation
- Exploiting a position of authority
- Exploiting vulnerability or desperation
Resources for PTAs
PTAs can play a role in working to end human trafficking by providing educational and awareness events. Holding such an event would support the National PTA Resolution on Child Trafficking that was adopted at the 2009 National PTA Convention. Keep in mind that this is not an easy topic to discuss, and your PTA should consider providing babysitting so that parents can learn and discuss the issue without children present. Here are some resources to help you host an event.
In addition to the hotline itself (888-373-7888, texting HELP to BEFREE (233733), or e-mailing email@example.com), the website includes a large resource library, including a US Department of Education report on Human Trafficking in America’s Schools. They also have their flyer for the hotline available in 23 languages.
A part of the US Department of Health & Human Services, the office’s website includes a resource library, handouts for their Look Beneath the Surface campaign, and links to other federal efforts to combat human trafficking.
As part of their introduction to human trafficking, they have a 30-minute video intended for the general public and a webinar designed for service providers. There is a pre-test and post-test that you can use on either side of showing the video.
The task force brings together law enforcement, social, and legal service agencies to work on human trafficking cases. They may be able to provide a speaker for PTAs in Cook County.
The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Blue Campaign is focused on ending human trafficking. The campaign has a document library and a series of awareness videos. The campaign also provides at no cost printed materials for the campaign (e.g., posters, cards, and pamphlets), but requires a 3- to 4-month lead time to fulfill orders.
Provides a Human Trafficking 101 training for organizations and has several fact sheets that could be used as handouts.
The center has a page of resources dedicated to the issue of child sex trafficking.
Created in partnership with the Wichita State University Center for Combatting Human Trafficking and the US Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention, this online portal provides a toolkit of 20 modules focused on the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Each module explains what is known about the topic, what it means, and how it can be put into practice on the individual, program, and community level.
This office serves as the federal government’s point of attack regarding human trafficking of children. The site provides links to many other federal and non-governmental resources on the topic.