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Sex Trafficking in Illinois

Many people believe that sex trafficking is something that only happens in other places, or to people from other countries. In fact, many trafficking victims are born, raised and trafficked right here in Illinois.

What is sex trafficking?
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, defines sex trafficking (iv) as "the recruitment, harboring, transportation, providing, or obtaining of a person for a commercial sex act," and defines severe forms of sex trafficking  as a commercial sex act that is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age. (v)

Defining the local problem

Illinois is a source, transit, and destination state for transnational trafficking as well as the internal trafficking of U.S. citizens and foreign nationals. Chicago's central geographic location, regionally divided and often insular ethnic communities, transportation infrastructure, and the O'Hare International Airport make the city an ideal location for traffickers to bring victims into Illinois and transport them to other cities and states. Labor and sex trafficking cases have also been reported in suburban communities and rural areas throughout Illinois. Due to the covert nature of the crime and high levels of underreporting, the total number of trafficking victims in Illinois is difficult to determine.



How does Illinois compare to other states?

Since 2007, Illinois has generated more than 950 calls to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline. Illinois generated the fifth highest number of calls, preceded only by New York and the border states of Texas, California and Florida. (vi) While trafficking may be prevalent in other industries as well, trafficking within the sex industry is pervasive and inherent.

What’s the connection between prostitution and sex trafficking?
Recent interviews conducted in Chicago with young women and girls who were under the control of pimps and traffickers confirm the link between sex trafficking and prostitution. Those interviewed were recruited into prostitution through fraud and deception and were then maintained through force, fraud, coercion, manipulation and economic exploitation. Pimps transported one-third to other cities and states for the purposes of selling sex (vii).

Pimps are actually traffickers
Traffickers and pimps target girls who have experienced high rates of child sexual abuse. Recent interviews with ex-pimps in Chicago document their practices of recruiting girls as young as 14 and controlling them by retaining all their earnings (ix). Often times they target women and girls from impoverished communities who have little or no options to escape poverty.

Strip clubs and indoor venues contribute to the problemMany of these pimps "supplied" women and girls to strip clubs and escort services for the purposes of selling sex. (x) Recent interviews conducted with Chicago men who buy sex confirmed that the vast majority do so in indoor venues such as bars, strip clubs, escort agencies, massage parlors and brothels. Many men also sought women on the street and on-line. Seventy-five percent of these interviewees said they had observed women in prostitution with pimps. (xi) One survey confirmed that half of women at escort services and forty percent of those on the street gave a cut of their earnings to someone else. Three-fourths of those stated that they would face harm if they did not do so. (xii)


The interviews with ex-pimps indicate that most worked for highly organized businesses and supplied girls to escort services and strip clubs, and divided up revenue. Most of these pimps also admitted that the women and girls did not keep any of the money they made .(xiii)



Collectively, the various Chicago surveys of women and girls in prostitution and men who buy sex indicate that the sex trade industry is a very lucrative and abusive enterprise, often controlled by third parties who operate out of legitimate, regulated businesses. The pimps, traffickers, profiteers and their customer base act largely above the law.

iv Section 103(9) 

v Section 103(8), paragraph (a)
vi "Human Trafficking in Illinois," (fact sheet, Polaris Project, March, 2009)


vii Jody Raphael and Jessica Ashley, "Domestic Sex Trafficking of Chicago Women and Girls," (report, DePaul University & Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, May 2008).
viii Jody Raphael and Deborah L. Shapiro, "Sisters Speak Out: The Lives and Needs of Prostituted Women in Chicago," (report, Center for Impact Research, Chicago 2002).


ix Jody Raphael, "Interviews with Five Ex-Pimps in Chicago," (report, DePaul University, April 2009). NOTE: it is the researchers aim to expand this research.
x Jody Raphael and Jessica Ashley, "Domestic Sex Trafficking of Chicago Women and Girls," (report, DePaul University & Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, May 2008).
xi Rachel Durchslag and Samir Goswami, "Deconstructing the Demand for Prostitution: Preliminary Insights from Interviews with Chicago Men who Purchase Sex," (report, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, Chicago 2008).


xii Jody Raphael and Deborah L. Shapiro, "Sisters Speak Out: The Lives and Needs of Prostituted Women in Chicago," (report, Center for Impact Research, Chicago 2002). 


xiii Jody Raphael and Brenda Myers-Powell, "Interviews with five ex-pimps in Chicago," (reportDePaul University, April 2009).

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The End Demand Illinois campaign is shifting law enforcement's attention to sex traffickers and people who buy sex, while proposing a network of support for survivors of the sex trade.

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