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