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June Blog: JCAST Chicago’s Role in Fueling the #MeToo Movement

15 Jun 19
Gayle Nelson
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Last month, the Jewish Community Against Sex Trafficking (JCAST) Chicago hosted Beyond R. Kelly: Surviving the Predators in our Community in partnership with the Dreamcatcher Foundation, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE), and others.This interfaith, intercommunity dialogue explored what makes young women and often their parents susceptible to individuals like R. Kelly and Harvey Weinstein and empowered survivors to tell their stories. The youngest speaker was a high school student who thought she was getting her chance to act. Instead her rape was videotaped and later shared with fellow students and many others. The video led to bullying and forced her to relive this crime over and over again. Thankfully, she was connected to the Dreamcatcher Foundation, a survivor led organization, who is providing her with support and services. 

Building awareness and empowering survivors is an important part of JCAST Chicago’s mission. Through partnerships, we work to end all forms of sexual violence throughout Chicago. Our activities are particularly important as R. Kelly’s trial for a fraction of the 48 young women he has violated over the last twenty years begins. 

Donate to JCAST Chicago today and consider volunteering to support survivors, educating men on how their purchase of sex leads to sex trafficking, and raising resources for critical direct services and housing for survivors.  Visit our website or send your generous donation to JCAST Chicago, C/O NCJWCNS, 5 Revere Dr. Ste. 200 Northbrook, IL 60062.

April Blog Post: Join the JCAST Chicago Movement!

15 Apr 19
Gayle Nelson
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As we celebrate Passover, we are grateful for all of the everyday people, like YOU, taking a stand against sex trafficking. The Jewish Community Against Sex Trafficking (JCAST) Chicago welcomes everyone to the table working together to combat this form of modern day slavery. Throughout the year, we are partnering with many other organizations to plan a number of upcoming events throughout the Chicagoland area. We hope you will join us. 

  • Saturday, 5/4   10AM -12PM    JCAST is partnering with Links, a national African American women’s service organization, to plan an author event with Pamela Samuels Young. Ms. Young was a corporate lawyer before becoming a full-time author. One of her suspense book’s plot is on sex trafficking. We are thrilled to elevate our work to an expanded audience with this partnership. Location: Evanston High School
  • Friday, 5/10       6:30-8:30PM     Beyond R. Kelly: Surviving the Predators in our Community, Interfaith, inter community dialogue in partnership with Dreamcatcher Foundation, a survivor led service organization, and Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE) to dialogue about what makes our society susceptible to individuals like R. Kelly and Harvey Weinstein. Location: Trinity Church, 400 W. 95th St., Chicago

Many more events are planned including a conversation with Hadassah! And this fall we are planning to replicate our innovative parenting programs in the western suburbs in partnership with Etz Chaim and Beth Shalom. We are excited to replicate our successful discussion exploring the connection  between immigration, domestic violence, and sex trafficking in partnership with DePaul University College of Law on September 20th. JCAST is also chairing the committee planning the legal track of the Safer Lake County’s human trafficking conference. 

In celebration of Passover consider getting involved! Email Gayle and get the details. Looking forward to a stronger JCAST Chicago thanks to your efforts! 

February is a Time to Discuss Healthy Dating Relationships with Youth

11 Feb 19
Gayle Nelson
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While many see February as a time for romance, it is also Teen Dating Violence Awareness month. At first, it may seem a paradoxical connection, but consider: 

  • 1 in 3 girls is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner;
  • One in ten high school students in the U.S. has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend; 
  • And, only 33% of teens who were in an abusive relationship told anyone about it;
  • In a recent survey of 604 children aged 11 to 18, Between Friends, a domestic violence prevention agency in Chicago, found that less than 25% of respondents reported that their parents or guardians know “a lot” or “everything” about their relationships with others (whether friendships or romantic partners);
  • Although 82% of parents are confident they could recognize the problem, 58% of them could not correctly identify all the warning signs.

Sex trafficking of minors is a traumatic, severe form of child abuse. Teens, who experience sexual abuse as children are more susceptible to experiencing sex trafficking as older teens and adults. It is the commercial aspect of sex trafficking that separates the crime of trafficking from sexual assault and dating violence. When the pattern of abuse begins in adolescence—violent behavior often begins between 12 and 18, the severity of adult intimate partner violence is often greater. Yet, many parents do not know sex trafficking occurs in their community and are unable to identify the warning signs that their teen might be in a violent relationship.  

To keep children from harmful relationships and sex trafficking, we need to do a better job of educating them and their parents about healthy relationships, how to identify the warning signs of abuse, and what to do about it if they believe a child is being abused. JCAST Chicago partnered with Jewish Child and Family Services parent educator, Tracey Kite to create a new parenting program. Its goal is to help parents explain consent and healthy relationships and build a better understanding of what youth see online and in their social circles.

Here are tips, some from the children’s own survey responses, for communicating with your youth about relationships:

  • Help them understand their relationship related decision-making and how to consider the possible consequences of their choices. Don’t blame them or be judgmental about choices they make. 
  • Pick a discussion time that works for them not just you; pick a positive time or someplace neutral or fun, and don’t lecture. The youth said they wanted adults not to tell them they’re too young to talk about it.
  • Be willing to listen and talk about your own experiences, values, and expectations. This means having thought through your own values to know what you approve of and disapprove of, and why. 
  • Discuss with them the emotional aspects of dating, the relationships they see in media, and whether they are realistic or idealized ones.
  • Learn how to have the conversations. Review definitions of consent and other video or video to educate yourself and your teen.

If you would like to learn more about JCAST’s two-session program for parents, Let’s Talk About Girls (Boys): Sexuality and Consent in the Internet and #MeToo Age and or host one or both of the programs at your Synagogue, library, or other location, please contact Gayle. And don’t forget to wear orange with your children and peers to create an opportunity for a conversation about healthy dating relationships. 

The Intersection Between Immigration, Domestic Violence & Sex Trafficking

14 Dec 18
Gayle Nelson
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On October 4, 2018, the Jewish Community Against Sex Trafficking (JCAST) Chicago  co-sponsored a highly informative, well-attended interfaith program at the First Presbyterian Church of Deerfield along with the Highland Park/Highwood Legal Clinic, National Council of Jewish Women Chicago North Shore (NCJW), the National Immigrant Justice Center, and the North Shore (IL) Chapter of The Links. Presenters from the Legal Clinic and National Immigrant Justice Center joined with Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney, Fred Day and JCAST staff Gayle Nelson to educate attendees on the intersection of immigration, domestic violence and sex trafficking including risk factors, warning signs, barriers to seeking help as well as legal and social services support available to victims, including the availability of government-issued T-Visas and U-Visas.  

Although, current events helped shape the discussion, this is not a new concern. NCJW has a history of combating sex trafficking. Many NCJW women volunteered at Ellis Island in the early 20th Century to redirect new immigrants from criminals and traffickers interested in connecting them with brothels to new opportunities in America.

Sex trafficking and domestic violence are overlapping criminal activities since both involve physical, emotional and mental abuse – the main difference is the financial gain for the traffickers or pimps. JCAST often references the family relationships that can exist between trafficker and victim. As with domestic violence, traffickers are often family members and the majority of victims and survivors are women who do not report their abuse.

Survivors of sex trafficking often face deportation, homelessness, financial insecurity and threats of violence against themselves and loved ones. Sadly, victims are often sexually and physically abused as children and therefore “normalize” their situation and may not see themselves as the victims at all.

What are the legal remedies available to immigrants who are victims of trafficking or domestic violence in the United States? Under the federal Violence Against Women Act, 10,000 U Visa’s are available to those who can prove that they’ve suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a victim of a qualifying criminal activity, including sex trafficking that occurs in the U.S. , possess knowledge of this criminal activity, and be helpful to the investigation or prosecution of such activity. Sadly, the demand is substantially higher than the visas available.

Five thousand T Visa’s are also available to survivors each year with benefits including 4 year protection against deportation, 4 year work visa, path to residency, and state and federal public benefits such as food stamps, cash and medical insurance. Eligibility for a T-Visa entails being victim of a severe form of trafficking, personally filing account with law enforcement, compliance with reasonable request for assistance in investigation or prosecution of  crime, and suffering of extreme hardship including unusual and severe harm if deported from the United States. Unfortunately, only 14% of available T-Visas were issued in 2017. Barriers to applying include fear of testifying against one’s trafficker and fear of deportation. In addition, trafficking victims are likely not aware of these visas and require support in applying due to language and legal barriers.

The chart below, created by the National Immigrant Justice Center, provides an overview of the root causes of human trafficking, demonstrating factors that might push an individual towards becoming a victim and factors that might allow a trafficker to capitalize on the desperate circumstances of the potential victim.

Unfortunately, many women, young adults and even children, who immigrate and seek asylum and refuge in the U.S continue to be tricked into labor and sex trafficking. Shockingly, the current administration has removed domestic and gang violence as criteria for seeking asylum and yet immigrants and refugees within our borders are still quite vulnerable. With an unprecedented and ever-growing number of children being detained at our borders rather than being united with family members, including over 2,000 at the Tornillo Detention Center in Texas under the care of employees for whom a national fingerprint background check requirement has been waived, we must be vigilant and do our best to protect these young people from abusers and traffickers. While Tornillo is now gaining the attention of the press, and national organizing is underway to demand closure of the center, led locally by Congregation Hakafa of Glencoe, these children and countless others like them are vulnerable both in the camp and upon release. To learn more, please read “US waived FBI checks on staff at growing teen migrant camp” posted by the AP Press on November 27, 2018.

What support services are available in the Chicagoland area? The National Immigrant Justice Center of Heartland Alliance and the Highland Park-Highwood Legal Aid Center provide social and legal services and can lead educational sessions for other professionals. Services for trafficking survivors may include shelter or housing, case management, public benefits, therapy and counseling.

All of us need to urge our elected officials to sponsor and support legislation that aids survivors and encourages victims to step forward while punishing the criminal activity of traffickers, pimps, and “Johns” or purchasers of sex. And we can continue to educate our families, communities, law enforcement, social service professionals on the prevalence of sex trafficking in our backyards.

If you suspect that someone you know is a victim of any form of human trafficking, please call or share the National Human Trafficking Hotline contact information:   1-888-373-7888 or text 233733.

 

Written by Beth Gordon, MS, CCC-SLP
JCAST Chicago Steering Committee
Member of NCJWCNS & Congregation Hakafa