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JCAST Chicago August Blog

16 Aug 19
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The American Bar Association highlighted the crime of sex trafficking in a recent article and event in California. Because of its Midwest location, connection to multiple highway systems, and large airport, Illinois has the seventh highest amount of sex trafficking activity compared to other states. 

On Friday, September 20th, the Jewish Community Against Sex Trafficking (JCAST) Chicago is partnering with DePaul University, College of Law’s Schiller DuCanto & Fleck Family Law Center, and attorney Helen Tarokic of Helen Tarokic Law PLLC of Wilmington, NC to offer a unique program exploring the connection between immigration, trafficking, and domestic violence. We are excited to welcome speakers from Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center, Department of Labor, Lifespan, and Catholic Multicultural Center (Madison, WI). Half and full day options with lunch offered. CLE’s will be provided (pending approval). Early bird pricing through August 31st

Visit for more information and to register.

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


October Blog: JCAST Chicago Releases new Resource to Combat Sex Trafficking

16 Oct 18
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JCAST Chicago Releases new Resource to Combat Sex Trafficking

The Jewish Community Against Sex Trafficking (JCAST) Chicago is excited to release a new white paper to assist organizations and communities in combating sex trafficking. We released the document on September 26th during the holiday of Sukkot. During Sukkot, Jews build sukkot or shelters. We recognize individuals experiencing sex trafficking are often kicked out of their homes or leave home to escape violence and other abuse, and become homeless. JCAST Chicago, in an effort to provide support (“shelter”) to survivors, calls on government and community leaders to work with us to combat sex trafficking and create more services, including housing, for those escaping sex trafficking. 

We are focusing on the Evanston area as a pilot community to build public awareness, reach out to elected officials, and explore the outcomes of legislation used in other parts of the country. Because Evanston and Skokie areas are convenient for men living in the City and the North Shore, many traffickers set up in Evanston. Additionally, there are many Evanston resources and leaders who support these efforts. Finally, because Evanston borders Chicago, we hope our efforts can also prevent sex trafficking activities in the Northern part of Chicago.

This resource sprang from our successful forum for Evanston and Skokie nonprofit and government leaders in January of 2018. The event commemorated sex trafficking awareness month and was planned with the YWCA of Evanston/Northshore, North Shore (IL) Chapter, The Links, Incorporated, and the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE). The half day forum welcomed a capacity crowd of social service and government leaders to build awareness and explore how their work is connected to combating sex trafficking. Together we increased our knowledge of sex trafficking and strengthened the movement’s momentum. 

During the summer, the conversation continued as JCAST Chicago and Links leaders met with Illinois State Representative Robyn Gabel. During the meeting, we discussed the importance of combating sex trafficking and potential next steps. Rep. Gabel asked for a summary of legislation in Illinois and across the country. Her request led to the production of this white paper. The white paper explores efforts to combat sex trafficking by regulating businesses used to promote or further sex trafficking activities including massage parlors, hotels, and other legal businesses. It also examines improvements to safe harbor laws supporting individuals fleeing sex trafficking.

We welcome your efforts to distribute this white paper widely and opportunities to partner to further combat this form of modern day slavery.

Click here to download a PDF of the White Paper.

JCAST Chicago June Blog: Volunteering with Selah Freedom

28 Jun 18
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Selah Freedom is a national organization that offers prevention, outreach and safe housing to survivors of sex trafficking. Selah is a Hebrew word which means to pause, rest and reflect. Here in the Chicago area, Selah provides a safe residence for survivors to discover who they are, set goals and re-launch their lives.
We’ve been volunteering at Selah Freedom for just over a year now. We plan meals and work with the residents to prepare them and we watch movies and do “truth talks” to have meaningful discussions afterwards. We enjoy the connection we have with the residents, learning about their unique gifts. We’re encouraged to see them making such incredible progress. A few of the residents now have their first jobs! Best of all, they support one another like sisters and have created a home for each other.
We look forward to continuing to develop our relationship with these women and discovering other ways to help them realize their life goals. We are grateful to NCJW and JCAST for introducing us to this worthwhile organization where we can interact with the people we are supporting.
Cheryl Susman
Joan Zahnle

JCAST Chicago April Blog

18 Apr 18
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On April 11, the President signed the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and the Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act (SESTA) after both Congressional chambers overwhelmingly passed the critical legislation. This rare bipartisan effort will combat known sex trafficking activity online particularly of minors and is due to advocacy activities of so many including many JCAST Chicago supporters who contacted their legislative officials. 

FOSTA-SESTA creates a new cause of action (both criminal and civil) against online websites, such as, that are a hub for the sale of minors, mostly young women, online. Mothers and women themselves are now able to sue these sites for the revenue the sites received through the knowing exploitation of youth. Many of those advertised online were abused as children. These suits were described in the movie I am Jane Doe shown by JCAST Chicago at the Northbrook Library in January. The law also creates a criminal cause of action. This landmark legislation will limit pimps and traffickers ability to sell women and will deter men from buying sex. For example, immediately after passage of the legislation, Carl Ferrer pled guilty to activities associated with Backpage and agreed to testify against others others associated with online trafficking websites.

In the days following Congressional activities passing SESTA-FOSTA a number of websites, such as Craigslist, Cityvibe, Reddit, Erotic Review, immediately closed the sections of their sites – or the whole site – where sex was sold. JCAST Chicago is working with allies to continue this effort to combat the exploitation of young women and men by pimps and traffickers in Chicago and across the world. 

JCAST March 2018 Blog

18 Mar 18
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Last week, I participated in two breakout sessions on Human Trafficking sponsored by the N.I.S Women of the E.L.C.A. (W.E.L.C.A.) as part of the Northern Illinois Synod (N.I.S.), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, (E.L.C.A.) Congregational Resourcing Event at Kiswaukee College in Malta Illinois. Conference attendees of almost 400 traveled from throughout Northern Illinois. I was one of eight speakers including professors from three area colleges and other religious leaders including an Amman. I did not travel alone; our Traffick Teens, life size cardboard figures with short real life stories of trafficking, kept me company and were placed prominently throughout the building.

After the second breakout session, a woman approached me. After we briefly discussed the importance and difficulty of speaking about sex trafficking with our children, she told me she was raped as a sixteen year old and had not shared this information with anyone before, even her husband. We talked about how much it continued to affect her and the importance of seeking help.

While, the #MeToo movement is gaining momentum, this experience showed me how many are still living in its shadow. JCAST Chicago is focused on changing our culture of objectifying women and advocating for more services to support women and girls who have experienced trafficking and other forms of gender based violence. Only, together can we successfully demand and create this new society.

~ Gayle Nelson, JCAST Chicago Engagement and Development Director

JCAST Chicago February Blog

16 Feb 18
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New Events You Won’t Want to Miss

The Jewish Coalition Against Sex Trafficking (JCAST) Chicago is planning a number of new events including premiering a new film and parenting programs in the age of the Internet and #MeToo. Mark your calendars and save your seats!

In January, JCAST collaborated with Oakton Community College to premier the film Stopping Traffic. The film not only explores sex trafficking across the world and right here in the US but advocates for ending our culture of fostering the objectification of women and girls. If you missed these showings, JCAST is excited to partner with Hadassah to show the film at the Vernon Area Public Library on March 4th. Reservations are appreciated (using this link).

JCAST is also excited to pilot new parenting programs in collaboration with Jewish Child and Family Services, National Council of Jewish Women Chicago North Shore, and North Shore Congregation Israel. Parenting Boys, in the Age of the Internet and #MeToo will be on Sunday, February 25th and Parenting Girls: Sexuality and Consent in the Age of the Internet and #MeToo will be on Sunday, April 22nd. Tracey Kite, LCSW who leads many stimulating parenting programs, will be our facilitator for both of the programs. Reservations are appreciated (using this link for boys and this one for girls).

And we can’t forget the Matzo tasting and educational event on April 4th (reservations appreciated here)!

It will be a great year and we hope you can join us.

January 2018 Blog: #Social Justice and Social Media

18 Jan 18
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These are just a few hashtags relating to trafficking, harassment and exploitation.  We see the hashtag symbol on social media but what is it, why do we use it and why are there so many of them!

In short, a hashtag is used on social media to categorize and track content. It helps a user search for posts on specific topics. But there is a lot more to using social media as an advocacy tool.  Here is a quick primer on social justice and social media.

Social media is as important to today’s activist as a letter to the editor or even a protest rally.  It’s an open forum for social engagement.  Social media allows you to communicate directly with decision makers, spread and share news quickly and mobilize members and supporters.

There are seemingly endless social media apps, LinkedIn, Instagram, SnapChat, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are just a few. The most commonly used social media applications are Facebook and Twitter.  What is the difference between Facebook and Twitter?  Well, some people say that Facebook is for connecting with the people you went to school with and Twitter is for people you wished you had gone to school with.

In a nutshell, Facebook is used by individuals who wish to stay connected with, or reconnect with, people that they know offline. Facebook is used by organizations and businesses to enhance their brand and disseminate information.  Users maintain a profile or page and post messages on their “wall.” The messages can be of any length and can include links, images, video, etc.

Twitter allows users to post 280 character messages, or tweets, and follow the messages of other users on their Twitter feed. It is mainly used to communicate with other individuals with similar interests, regardless of whether users know one another off Twitter, and to follow updates from organizations, businesses and celebrities.  Twitter is a frequently used form of communication in the current political climate.

Hashtags are what we used to think of as the pound symbol or number sign. Users can group posts together by topic or type by use of hashtags – words or phrases prefixed with a “#” sign. A word, phrase or topic that is mentioned at a greater rate than others is said to be a “trending topic”. Trending topics become popular either through a concerted effort by users, or because of an event that prompts people to talk about a specific topic. These topics help Twitter and their users to understand what is happening in the world and what people’s opinions are about it.

Tagging is more than just a children’s game!  Tagging is a way to mention or reply to other users.  By using the “@“ symbol, you can engage in a form of conversation over social media. For example, including the tag @ncjwncs in a Facebook post or Tweet will alert NCJW Chicago North Shore that you’ve posted at or about them. Tagging is a great way to let you elected officials know about issues.

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month.  Participate by taking action on social media.  Here are a couple sample Tweets and Facebook posts:


●  We were slaves, too – and we will not stand idly by while people are being trafficked. Join us in speaking out on #HumanTrafficking Awareness Day. #EndHumanTrafficking

●  The Jewish community is working to #EndHumanTrafficking. Our shared values call us to build a world where all are free:

●  #HumanTrafficking is using force, fraud, or coercion to control someone for commercial sex or labor & services #EndHumanTrafficking

●  Everyone deserves respect & dignity. No one should be exploited for labor or sex. #EndHumanTrafficking

●  As Jews, we cannot stand by while others are enslaved. We must work for a world in which all are free #EndHumanTrafficking


●  An estimated 20.9 million individuals are enslaved worldwide, including hundreds of thousands of victims in the US. Traffickers use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage, and other forms of coercion to exploit men, women, and children through forced labor and or sexual exploitation. Jewish tradition reminds us that we, too, were once slaves in Egypt. We must commit to adequately funding services for survivors of trafficking, hold traffickers accountable, and address the systemic causes of trafficking. We will not stand idly by while others are enslaved! Today, we join our voices together to build a world where all are free. #EndHumanTrafficking

●  #HumanTrafficking is the forced exploitation of a human being for labor or sex, which violates the inherent dignity and worth of a person. Jewish tradition reminds us that we, too, were once slaves in Egypt. We will not stand idly by while others are enslaved! As Jews, our shared values call us to speak out against the injustice of slavery, to hear the voices of victims and survivors, and to vigorously uphold the right of every individual to be free. #EndHumanTrafficking

Below are some great social media resources.  Happy Posting!

Social Media Resources:

NCJW CNS Facebook & Twitter Handle: @ncjwcns
How to Create Your First Tweet:
The Perfect Facebook Post:
Writing Great Tweets:
Popular Twitter Hashtags:

~ Melissa Prober, Executive Director, National Council for Jewish Women Chicago North Shore

JCAST Chicago December Guest Blog

19 Dec 17
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Al Franken and the Monster Myth
I take no pleasure in Al Franken’s departure from the Senate, but my greatest sorrow is for what he did-that photo of him “pretending” to grope a sleeping woman revolts me, and I believe Ms. Tweeden’s report that he stuck his tongue, unwanted, into her mouth. Although I will miss his smart and progressive voice in Congress, I am confident that there are other Minnesotans (including women) who can serve his state well. I am also hopeful that recent events are revealing what I have long called “the Monster Myth”-the false notion that only evil, awful, men engage in sexual misconduct.
We are in the initial stages of a new national experiment in treating women as credible rather than crazy, and ought to budget ample time and space so that women’s justified rage and grief-whether long suppressed or newly triggered-can be expressed. We should also recognize that lacking experience in holding men accountable for the ways in which they subordinate women makes doing so scary and difficult. But we have to do it- it is long past time that we stop protecting men from the harmful consequences of their sexually abusive conduct. I hope that we can all remember that just as women have never been “ruined” by being sexually violated, neither will men be “ruined” by being made to answer for their behavior.
In the current tidal wave of #metoo stories unleashed by reporting on Harvey Weinstein, we are finally hearing the primal screams triggered by the shock of being groped, masturbated at, or worse. Many are now learning that wherever sexual violation lands on the spectrum from forced kiss to rape, sorrow and rage are its wake. And we are being buffeted by more than just the emotions of survivors: as men from every community are revealed as harassers, gropers, or rapists, we are collectively experiencing the heartbreak that comes from learning that perpetrators are men we care about.
Before, it was easy for people without a lived experience of sexual violation to think that only monsters engage in such behavior. It is still difficult for people to accept that sexual violation doesn’t require monstrous intent. But it has always been…
Column from Huff Post published on 12/8/2017

November 2017 Blog

15 Nov 17
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A Locker Room Talk

Ok guys, bring it in.

What is going on out there? We’ve been terrible so far. I don’t know if you can hear what they’re saying, but it is not good. And I for one am sick of it.

Harvey. Donald. Bill. And Bill. Also Roger. And another Bill. Woody. Roman. Roy. Chris and Travis and Justin. Those are just the all-star creeps!

Then we’ve got all the back-ups. Chad. Eric. Randy. The guy at the bar last night. Your buddy from college. The weird dude who seems to be at every party. I mean the list just keeps going.

And what are we doing about it? Nothing. Most of us are doing nothing. And that’s the problem. We are sitting on the sidelines, warming the bench like passive bystanders, meanwhile giving our silent endorsement of sexism, misogyny, harassment and assault. We are sustaining the rape culture. Now I get that a lot of us do this as a means of self-preservation. We don’t condemn our buddy’s harassment of a woman on the street, because we’re scared he’ll call us a “pussy” if we do. And we join in when the guys brag about their sexual conquests, or discuss women as nothing more than a collection of parts, because we’re afraid they’ll call us a “fag” if we don’t.

But enough already. I thought men were supposed to be brave. Supposed to be tough. It’s time to step up. Who’s with me?
YEAH! Ok, here’s the game plan.

Let’s start by acknowledging the role we all have played in creating this culture of hostility and harm. I’m know I’m not the only one, but I have laughed at jokes that used women as the punchline. I have probably even told a few. In college, I generally turned a blind eye when senior guys gave sophomore girls loads of alcohol in the hopes of “hooking up” with them later. And, I once tried to make a woman feel guilty for rejecting my advances. I am ashamed of my behavior and regret those decisions, because I now recognize the harm that they cause. But, I don’t do that anymore.

Click here for the entire blog post.

~ Caleb Probst, Education Manager for the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation

This post was original published on HuffPost.

October 2017 Blog

15 Oct 17
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Ending Violence in Lake County- A Call to Action

Over the summer, The Partnership for a Safer Lake County in conjunction with Leading Healthy Futures released a report attempting to document the occurrence and prevalence of violence in the county as well as the challenges in measuring and combating it.

A section of the report highlighted the prevalence of sex trafficking in the county. Researchers reached out to government officials including State Representative Barbara Wheeler, who reported the growing prevalence and lucrative nature of human trafficking in northern Illinois. Traffickers use the internet and legal businesses including massage parlors as facades. They locate in areas with zoning laws that do not heavily regulate these businesses (e.g. licensure, lighting, dress codes and hours of operation). It is estimated that 50 percent of sex trafficked victims are also involved in legal “sex-orientated” businesses (e.g. strip clubs, escort services, etc).

The report found sex trafficking occurred throughout the county but is concentrated in the cities of North Chicago, Waukegan, and Gurnee. These areas also have the highest rates of gang activity. The report identified research indicating that as much as half of the gangs in the Chicago area are involved in sex trafficking including the trafficking of minors.

In wealthier communities, such as Deerfield, Highland Park, and Lake Forest sex trafficking is more often conducted in massage parlors and other sexually related businesses including strip clubs, adult stores, escort services, and erotic spas. Many of these businesses use the internet including and to advertise their services. Often the ads are made to look like the women are “working independently, when in fact they are victims of sex trafficking more often than is recognized or understood.” The report emphasized the lack of understanding and enforcement and outlined the need for more training for community leaders and first responders.

~ Gayle Nelson, JCAST Chicago Engagement and Development Director

September 2017 Blog

15 Sep 17
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Over the last forty years, our understanding of the nature and prevalence of domestic violence has matured. Gone are the days when we were surprised it was happening on the North Shore or asked what did she do or why didn’t she leave.

Over the last few months, I have attended a couple of conferences on sex trafficking and it surprised me just how similar it is to domestic violence and how much we as a society are continuing to learn. The similarity begins by examining the relationship between domestic violence and sex trafficking. Those who are victims of child sexual assault have a higher vulnerability to sex trafficking.

Once victims are entangled in sex trafficking, the connections grow. After all, many sex trafficking victims see their pimps as their boyfriend. Pimps use isolation and violence to maintain control over their victims. And, sex trafficking victims are at their greatest danger when they are making plans or escaping from their bondage.

Yet, many continue to ask questions and pass judgement of sex trafficking survivors making it difficult for survivors to seek the services they desperately need. There is the mistake of linking the freedom of movement with the ability to leave; not connecting the desperation of poverty and lack of options with the desire to want to sell one’s body; or wanting and often finding fault in the young women’s family or in her own actions.

I am grateful JCAST Chicago lay leaders are participating in these learning opportunities with me. Many are not practitioners and do not have special training. Instead, they have a desire to learn and support sex trafficking survivors. JCAST Chicago’s mission includes increasing awareness and educating each other on sex trafficking. Educating our friends and the Jewish community as a whole is all of our responsibility. Over the coming months, there will be more opportunities to learn. Please contact me to receive more information or if you have questions. I look forward to learning with you.



~ Gayle Nelson, Engagement and Development Director

JCAST Chicago August Blog

22 Aug 17
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About a year ago the social action committee at Lakeside Congregation invited Donna Fishman, a current Co-Chair of The Jewish Coalition Against Sex Trafficking, JCAST Chicago, and a founding member of the Coalition, to speak at our monthly meeting. She introduced us to the advocacy and education work JCAST Chicago supporters are organizing. When I heard the overwhelming number of children sexually exploited in the greater Chicagoland area, I knew I needed to take action. After attending many training classes, I received a certificate of training in Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children.

I also became involved with Selah Freedom, a safe house located on the North Shore providing a holistic approach for women leaving sex trafficking. The house opened earlier this year and provides safety and housing for survivors.

On Sunday, August 13th, I volunteered to help host a birthday celebration for a sex trafficking survivor at Selah Freedom. Thanks to a team of volunteers who cooked, baked and decorated, the birthday girl had her favorite Mexican food and to end the meal, a piñata full of candy!
Selah is a Hebrew word meaning to pause, rest and reflect. Those words were never more evident than during this event. It was a time for me to reflect on the commitment I have made to volunteer and give someone a chance to feel loved and celebrated.

At the house, every evening after dinner, everyone forms a circle and shares a few words of encouragement, hope and strength through inspirational messages. Being a part of the circle after the birthday celebration was a very emotional moment for me.

Diane Zidman

“If I can change one life, I feel that I have succeeded.”

JCAST Chicago July Blog

20 Jul 17
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Join JCAST on 7/27 and Take Action!

In the last month, local news stations prominently featured stories of teens lured into sex trafficking. For example, in Texas, local authorities identified a confined Chicago teen advertised on Backpage. And, here in Glenview, police broke up a brothel.
Yet, many in our community don’t realize the danger of sex trafficking. They would be surprised to learn human trafficking is the third largest international crime industry grossing $1.34 trillion and selling as many as 100,000 children across the world. They believe prostitution is not harmful because it occurs between two “willing” adults. Yet the average age of a sex trafficking victim is 12 to 14 and most are runaway or locked out girls.

The Jewish Coalition Against Sex Trafficking Chicago (JCAST) Chicago invites you and your friends to a special event on the evening of July 27th to learn more and be a part of a solution. We welcome everyone who is interested in this issue. Please circulate this event in your network and invite others who are interested. To RSVP and for more information contact JCAST Engagement and Development Director, Gayle at See you there!

JCAST Chicago June 2017 Blog

22 Jun 17
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I Am Jane Doe

I Am Jane Doe is a film that tells the true story of a legal battle between several mothers of sex trafficking victims and Two of the plaintiffs, who are identified using pseudonyms, and their families tell their story of the harrowing experiences they went through when they were trafficked, at ages fifteen and thirteen. Since reuniting with their families, they have taken on legal battles against Backpage, the website on which they were sold for sex. What started as two individual cases multiplied to include several court cases across the county as well as a United States Senate investigation. Backpage repeatedly argued that they were not liable for the ads sold on their website due to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This act was created to protect new media from lawsuits due to the content on their websites. Backpage used this act and the protection of the first amendment to win or dismiss several cases filed against them. However, the battle is far from over, as the families of the Jane Does are willing to do whatever it takes to get justice for their daughters.

The screening of I Am Jane Doe that took place at Columbia College in Chicago was introduced by John McKay, the former Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defense in Canada, and Lisa Madigan, the attorney general for the state of Illinois. At the conclusion of the showing, there was a panel of six speakers: Yvonne, a mother who tragically lost her 16-year-old daughter at the hands of a Backpage buyer; Gina DeBoni, an attorney representing the Jane Doe family; Yiota Souras, the Senior Vice President of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children; Marian Hatcher, the senior project manager and human trafficking coordinator for the Cook County Sheriff’s office; Martin Castro, the former chairman of the US Commission on Civil Rights; and Mary Mazzio, the writer, director, and producer of the film. They answered questions from the moderator, Lynn Sweet (the DC Bureau Chief of the Chicago Sun-Times) and the audience, adding their own experiences and knowledge to supplement the film. When asked what the audience could do to help, Hatcher responded that they should continue to educate themselves and those around them, and to call their representatives to voice their thoughts.

I was fortunate enough to see this film as a part of my internship with JCAST for this summer while I am home from college. While many in the audience were led to imagine themselves in the horrible scenario that the Jane Does’ parents found themselves in (What if this happened to my daughter?), I had a different horrible scenario in my mind (What if this happened to my friend? What if it happened to me?). The film demonstrated how easy it can be to fall through the cracks; before they became victims of sex trafficking, these victims were just normal kids. According to one study in the Midwest, 40% of children who run away from home are trafficked. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that one in every three homeless teenagers will be sex trafficked within 48 hours of leaving home. I Am Jane Doe tells the story of girls who were sex trafficked, and the legal battle of their families to make sure the people at fault are made to pay for their pain. But it also serves as an awakening for audience members of all ages and genders: what is happening all around us is wrong, and innocent people are suffering. I think everyone who saw the film would agree that they cannot go back to when they did not know about Backpage and the stories of the girls who have taken the name “Jane Doe.” We know, and now we have the responsibility to act.

I Am Jane Doe is currently available on iTunes, Vimeo, Google Play, Amazon, Netflix, and DVD. 50% of all the profits will be donated to organizations supporting Jane Doe children. To learn more, visit

– Eliana Fleischer, JCAST Chicago Intern

JCAST Chicago May Blog

22 May 17
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Selah Freedom

Selah Freedom is a national organization that offers prevention, outreach and safe housing to survivors of sex trafficking. Selah is a Hebrew word which means to pause, rest and reflect. Here in the Chicago area, Selah Freedom provides a safe residence for survivors to discover who they are, set goals and re-launch their lives.

We met at a Selah training meeting that all the volunteers are required to attend. We really connected in our passions to help these women and to make a direct impact on their lives.  Our first volunteer opportunity was in April, where we planned a meal and worked with the residents to prepare it. They were so excited and grateful. They embraced us and we embraced them. We so enjoyed sitting around the table and sharing the meal that we had all prepared together. It felt like we had an immediate connection with them. Next time we will bring more new and unusual cooking experiences with us.

We are looking forward to further developing our relationship with these women and discovering other ways to help them realize their life goals. We are grateful to NCJW and JCAST for introducing us to this very worthwhile organization where we can interact with the people we are supporting.

Cheryl Susman

Joan Zahnle

We welcome Cheryl and Joan to the JCAST Chicago Steering Committee

JCAST Chicago April Blog

23 Apr 17
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The Nordic Model, pioneered in Sweden, is a legislative approach to prostitution, which makes it illegal to purchase sexual services.  Under this model, the individuals who are trafficked for commercial sex are not criminalized, and are instead offered support and social services.  The aim of this model is to change society’s views of prostitution and to eventually eradicate it completely.  Sweden has seen progress toward achieving this goal – the proportion of Swedish men purchasing sex has decreased since implementing the Nordic Model.  In fact, research by the Swedish government indicates that street prostitution has been halved since the legislation was introduced in 1999.

Following in Sweden’s footsteps, other countries have begun to implement similar legislation such as Ireland, France, Norway, Iceland, and Canada.  Recently, Israel has begun to take a step forward by introducing legislation inspired by the Nordic Model.  The Task Force on Human Trafficking & Prostitution (TFHT) submitted proposed legislation called the “Criminal Prohibition of Consumption of Prostitution Services and Community Treatment Bill.”  The bill consists of two parts in accordance with the Nordic Model: 1) the prohibition of purchasing sexual services and 2) protection and support for survivors.  TFHT has an ongoing public petition that you can sign here to support the proposed legislation and ensure that your voice is heard in advancing this legislation in Israel.

Haley Braun, JCAST Chicago Intern

International Women’s Day – JCAST Chicago March Blog

20 Mar 17
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Eva, our family’s Au Pair from Czech Republic, commented to me on March 8 about the lack of care and attention paid to women in the United States on International Women’s Day.  Eva’s experience in Europe was a day for women to be cherished for their contributions to life, motherhood, and society.  It’s a day when men hand out small yellow flowers on the street to women, just because.

Part of our experience hosting an Au Pair is this cultural exchange; learning about traditions, language, and food from Czech has been fascinating.  This cultural difference had me interested.  So, I set about doing some research.

International Women’s Day began in 1909 as a response to women’s horrific working conditions.  It has become a recognized holiday in more than 25 countries since its inception and stands to not only appreciate women, but advocate for equality.  “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights,” says Gloria Steinem.  International Women’s Day celebrates unity and advocates for action.

The 2017 theme of #BeBoldForChange made me think that this is a celebration beyond yellow flowers, it’s an opportunity to unite and make our voices heard for those who don’t have their own voice.

Through the lens of JCAST Chicago, being bold for change means standing up for the people who are lured into sex trafficking as young teens or standing up to our neighbors who are purchasing sex from those teens.  To me, being bold for change is ending the demand for paid sex, one group at a time.

What does being bold for change mean for you?  As you reflect on the women’s issues that make you want to be bold, I hope that you find your voice and an outlet for making change.


~ Jacqueline Babb, JCAST Chicago

Through the Eyes of a Docent

21 Feb 17
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JCAST Chicago February Blog
At the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Educational Center, 60,000 students enter to learn every year.  Some days we have 500 people within our walls wondering what happened so many years ago when a despot was given complete control.  Dehumanizing people as commodities, a genocide enslaving a population.  To this, we say,” never again!”
In the Holocaust, we see the absence of human rights, a population enslaved without choices. Why would someone choose to be hurtful? Hitler used force, fraud, coercion, and terror. Survivors were victimized with no resolution. Empowering is our job.  It is to make a difference, to help with the understanding of our own communities and to provide the venue to widen our world hoping to be the person that will make our world safe for democracy for future generations.
We emphasize respect, empathy, courage and through the Holocaust, treasure what we can learn from rescuers and survivors the qualities they exhibit, and how to transform them into our lives.  What actions did they take?  Where and with whom? Culture defines us. We emphasize convictions in one’s own beliefs, working together to problem solve.  Change is attainable. Activism is a venue, with the understanding of crimes against humanity, and taking a stand as an upstander.
The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Educational Center, “furthers preserves the legacy of the Holocaust by honoring those lost and teaching universal lessons that combat hatred, prejudice and indifference and human rights and the elimination of genocide.”
JCAST’s mission to come together with partners of those “concerned by human rights and the empowerment of women, and ending the community and take action to end the demand for purchased sex and protect children” reflects the mission of the Illinois Holocaust Museum with the power of education to make a difference. The Museum is working hard to change the thinking of people, broaden their understanding of the existence of history, and come together to fight and resist the inhumane treatment of those with victimless crimes.
Sex trafficking presents a similar picture. Abuse, control of one’s lives by others, exploitation, brainwashing, are all aspects of those that are trafficked. We look as women as survivors.  We are looking for a world without exploitation.
As a call for action, we need to talk, know the warning signs, be that person that is an upstander who involves themselves in the avenue of human rights for all of us.
~ Susan Block, JCAST Chicago Steering Committee Member

Worlds Colliding – JCAST Chicago January 2017 Blog

18 Jan 17
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I am one of 500 attendees at a national nonprofit management conference for students and educators.  Days into stale coffee, too-cold rooms, and information beyond my saturation point, my world of being a professor and my world of being a sex-trafficking advocate collided.

The keynote speaker declared that slavery exists around us.  Participants looked around bewildered, humbled.  Certainly, our country has moved beyond forcing people into labor.  Certainly not.

As students learned more about sex trafficking in the keynote address, eyes widened and students shifted uncomfortably in their seats.  I relived my own experience learning about this modern form of slavery.

The students that I talked to after the keynote imagined their friends, sisters, and girlfriends in these horrific situations.  They reframed their view of prostitution as a victimless crime.  They felt in their hearts and searched for solutions in their minds.

Students pursuing careers in the nonprofit sector are full of drive, energy, and will to make our world better one day at a time.  They asked the obvious question: “what can we do?”  Perhaps you are asking yourself the very same question.  What can I do to eradicate this modern form of slavery?

You can start the conversation.

Connect JCAST Chicago to your synagogue or church.  Invite your friends to coffee and have them read and discuss an article about sex trafficking.  Have your book club read, Lived Through This: Listening to the Stories of Sexual Violence Survivors by Anne K. Ream.  Write a blog post.  Harness the power of social media.  Go see Money Make’m Smile at Her Story Theater in Chicago this spring.

When paid sex becomes socially unacceptable, demand ends.  When demand ends, traffickers don’t earn billions of dollars from selling people as reusable commodities.  When traffickers don’t earn money, they stop victimizing.  And, only then, does this horrific cycle end.

~ Jacqueline Babb, Engagement and Development Director



Ripping Off the Band-Aid: Talking to my 12-Year-Old about Pornography

24 Dec 16
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After over a decade of working for the National Council of Jewish Women, my children have suffered through many a conversation on topics ranging from civil rights to why courts matter to reproductive justice.  Add my work with the Jewish Coalition Against Sex Trafficking (JCAST) Chicago to the mix and they hear about trafficking, exploitation, violence.  Let’s just say that car rides with mom are really fun!

Recently, when so many cases of college rape are making the news, and when presidential candidates and political leaders joke and excuse assault as “locker room talk,” I realized that it isn’t enough to talk to my teen daughter about how to protect herself.  I needed to talk to my (almost) teen son about respect, exploitation and pornography.

I have learned from past experience that conversations with teenagers about sex, drugs, alcohol and similar topics seem to work best when you don’t face each other – car rides are good; so is sitting on the couch facing straight ahead.  How to approach the subject is tricky.  Do you wait until they ask; do you just bring it up?  I had joked with my kids about porn in a sense – if we were watching a film or TV show together and the action took a turn towards the sexual, I would yell “PORN” and they would cover their eyes.  But a flash of skin or prolonged kissing during prime time isn’t pornography – although I will say there are also shows that certainly push the boundaries!  I decided that I needed to talk to my kids seriously about pornography and the only way to do that was to rip off the bandage in a sense and just go for it!

So one evening, while my boy and I were watching television, I just brought it up.  It was mostly a one-sided conversation, but at least he listened.  I talked with my son about how pornography is easily accessible as well as how it is totally natural to be curious about sex and nudity and wanting to seek out those things is normal, but also that pornography is exploitive and has no basis in reality.  That many of the “actors and actresses” in these films or the “models” in these pictures may not be there voluntarily.  There is undoubtedly a percentage who are victims of trafficking.  That the images of women he might see are not representative of actual women and that the relationships depicted are not real relationships.

I read an article once (although I can no longer find the link) but the gist of the article was “Ok, we had sex; will you kiss me now?”  While I didn’t save the article, the message stuck with me.  Whether it’s due to pornography, lack of education, the influence of their friends or messages in the media, the issue with teen dating is no longer sex before marriage but sex before dating. Studies have found that frequent usage of pornography negatively impacts intimate relationships and affects the users’ view of women.

Pornography is readily available on the internet, but so are some great resources: Culture Framed is the first health promotion effort to recognize and address pornography as the public health crisis of the digital age. They have an amazing website ( filled with articles and ideas for educating your children about the harm of pornography as well as how to empower them to have happy and healthy relationships.  CAASE, the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, has great information and fact sheets on their website including a tool kit for high school educators  which can be helpful to read as a parent to further a discussion with your child about sexual and sexually violent images in the media. CAASE addresses the culture, institutions, and individuals that perpetrate, profit from, or support sexual exploitation. Their work includes prevention, policy reform, community engagement, and legal services.  Check out these two organizations and email me at with any additional resources you might find!

So as painful as the conversation was with my son, I was glad I did it.  It opened up a window of conversation that I hope will remain open as he develops into the amazing young man I know he will become.

~Melissa Prober, Communications Director, National Council of Jewish Women Chicago North Shore; Staff, JCAST Chicago

Thoughts on Women Hold up Half the Sky

21 Nov 16
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I recently had the opportunity to attend the opening of a new exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.  The exhibit, entitled “Women Hold Up Half the Sky” reflects upon the struggles worldwide to achieve equality for women.  Inspired by Nicholas Kristof’s and Sheryl WuDunn’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, the exhibit seeks to share solutions and be a catalyst for change both here at home in Chicago, and around the world.

“Women Hold Up Half the Sky” juxtaposes global women’s rights issues with those faced locally in Chicago.  I think we, as Americans, as Chicagoans, have a tendency to believe that the horrors of sex trafficking, gender based violence, and oppression of women are the problems of other nations. I believe we tend to distance ourselves from these horrors because they seem far too appalling to be happening in our own neighborhoods.  But the unfortunate truth is that violence against women and sex trafficking are pervasive in Chicago and throughout the United States.

Attorney General, Lisa Madigan was among the speakers at the opening of “Women Hold Up Half the Sky.”  Madigan, who has been a dedicated advocate for women’s rights in Illinois, called upon the crowd to get involved and join in the fight for equality.

Fritzie Fritzshall, President of the museum, also spoke at the opening of the exhibit.  She shared her own harrowing story as a survivor of the Holocaust.  She spoke of “The darkest days of human history.” She implored the audience to “Remember.”  Her eloquently simple request is a reminder to us all to learn from the past and to continue the fight against egregious human rights abuses today, like those faced by women around the world.

JCAST Chicago Steering Committee member Beth Gordon, said, “The new Women Hold Up Half the Sky exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum is a compelling reminder of the many forms of oppression of girls and women around the world, yet the also introduces visitors to several extraordinary people who have taken a stand and are making a difference, including here in Chicago. The exhibit is inspired by the stories of girls and women, as featured in Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl Wu Dunn’s book, “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Wordwide.” Both book and exhibit remind us that “global statistics on the abuse of girls are numbing. It appears that more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all battles of the 20th century.” It is also a call to action that we simply cannot ignore. As stated by Kristoff and Wu Dunn in their book ” …the challenge today is to prod the world to face up to women locked in brothels and teenage girls with fistulas curled up on the floor of isolated huts. We hope to see a broad movement emerge to battle gender inequality around the world and to push for education and opportunities for girls around the world. “ I urge you to visit the exhibit, and join the movement, for we can no longer look the other way.”

JCAST Chicago Steering Committee Co-Chair Susan Rifas said that the exhibit is a “powerful and important exhibition that everyone … men and women … should see. It brings home in a very visual way what women around the world are subjected to, including sex trafficking.”

“Women Hold Up Half the Sky” runs from September 25, 2016 – January 22, 2017 at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie, IL.  Don’t miss this important exhibit!

~Haley Braun, Intern, JCAST Chicago, Clinical Psychology Doctoral student at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.  Graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.