As a child, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always replied in all seriousness, “I don’t know, but whatever it is, I want to be famous enough to get a day off of school named for me!”
With ideas of fame and fortune well behind me and the awe inspiring work of serving my community on the forefront, I’ve never looked back on my decision. As the Senior Program Officer of the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, daily I learn about innovative programing and from communities wanting to positively impact their progeny’s future. Constantly impressed by the relentless commitment to improve outcomes, change practices and policies, our grantees see the impact of their work not in terms of one completed program, but the shift that they are making on society’s behaviors, definitions, engagement on an issue, and legislation.
My personal path throughout the nonprofit and philanthropic sector took me from Chicago to New York to Washington, D.C. and back again to Chicago. While each step along the way provided a culturally rich education and rewarding experience, it seemed that one societal ill plagued each community; sex trafficking.
In the United States, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 defines sex trafficking as: “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age” (22 USC § 7102). The term “commercial sex act” is defined as any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person (22 U.S.C. 7102).
The underground sex economy’s value is estimated between $39.9 and $290 million annually (Urban Institute, 2014). Statistics suggest that wherever you are reading this article, right now 1 in 6 runaways are likely to become victims of sex trafficking (Center for Missing & Exploited Children, 2014).
Individuals who buy sex provide the demand and profit incentives traffickers seek. Many buyerss of sex are unaware, poorly informed, or in denial about the realities of the sex industry. Victims of trafficking are usually subjected to violence, coercion, threats, lies, and manipulation by their traffickers. As contrary as this may sound; this is the good news, this is where we can make a difference.
National Human Trafficking Day is observed annually on January 11. Rather than trying to get a vacation day on the school calendar as I once dreamed of, why not spend one day doing something that can change the way an individual or a community views those most vulnerable in our community? JCAST Chicago works to eradicate sex trafficking in the Chicagoland area through public awareness, community engagement, and advocacy at state, local and national levels. With your help, we can educate elected officials, policy makers, leaders, and residence about the realities of trafficking and end the demand.
- Sign up for Action Alerts to stay up-to-date with the issues. ncjwcns.org/jcast.
- Send a letter calling on local leaders and law enforcement to enforce laws and end demand. For a sample letter visit: org/trafficking-resources
- Hang a Flyer. Victims may visit bus stations, grocery stores, currency exchanges, and gas stations. Hang a poster featuring the hotline for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center and help them escape to safety. For more information and to receive flyers, please visit org/trafficking-resources for a link.
- Attend an event. JCAST Chicago and Hadassah with Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, January 31, 2016; 4:00 – 6:00 pm
Don’t let another day that goes by without learning more about this pervasive issue.
~~Sara Kalish, Senior Program Officer, Jewish Women’s Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago