Despite common belief, sex trafficking is not just a third-world problem. In fact, right now, an estimated 244,000 to 350,000 children are being emotionally and physically abused through the sex trade in the United States.
Despite numerous laws designed to protect children from this abuse, sex trafficking continues to flourish in the U.S. The Salvation Army has been actively involved in partnering with authorities across the Chicagoland area to combat the sex trade, rescue its victims and provide them with treatment and shelter.
The Salvation Army PROMISE program (Partnership to Rescue our Minors from Sexual Exploitation) educates professionals working in the community how to identify the warning signs of human trafficking and work with the authorities to intervene on victims’ behalf. We actively train law enforcement, legal professionals, teachers, social service providers, health care providers and community members.
We have also opened Anne’s House, a residential home for young women age 12 to 21 who are victims of commercial sexual exploitation. The home provides a safe, nurturing environment as well as long-term trauma and therapeutic treatment. Anne’s House is the only long-term trauma-based residential home for victims of sex trafficking in Illinois, and one of only a handful in the country. Girls are referred to the program from throughout the country.
The Salvation Army Stop-IT program enhances the community’s ability to identify the red flags of human trafficking, and collaborate with government and juvenile services agencies. The program also operates a 24-hour hotline providing support to survivors and responding to referrals from law enforcement and the community. The program serves both children and adult victims of sex and labor trafficking, including domestic minors and undocumented foreign nationals.
Stop-IT assisted in the first human trafficking conviction in Illinois, with two men being convicted in February 2011 of exploiting two teenage girls. The Illinois States Attorney’s Office said the conviction was a result of collaboration between the Cook County Sheriff’s Police, the Special Prosecutions Unit and its community partner, The Salvation Army.