CHAMPAIGN — A hearing on human trafficking in Illinois, hosted by U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, will be held next Thursday at Parkland College in Champaign.
"Human trafficking is a $9 billion a year industry that affects more than 20 million victims, primarily young women and girls, around the world," said Davis, whose 13th Congressional District includes Champaign-Urbana. "As a member of the Congressional Human Trafficking Task Force, I am working to raise awareness to this issue and offer concrete solutions to put an end to this abhorrent practice in America. So I'm pleased be able to host this summit to give area residents the opportunity to speak directly with and learn from experts on this important issue."
Earlier this year Sen. Mark Kirk, R-IL, introduced legislation that would bar websites from advertising on behalf of child sex traffickers. His Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act would make it unlawful to sell or commercially promote an advertisement that facilitates kidnapping; trafficking or exploitation of children; sexual abuse or illegal sex; pimping, prostitution, child sex abuse and trafficking. The legislation will allow the U.S. Attorney to shut down advertisements on websites promoting underage sex and, if convicted, send offenders to prison for up to five years.
According to the National Association of Attorneys General, Backpage.com, which is owned by two Phoenix, Ariz., men, is responsible for more than 70 percent of prostitution advertising in the United States.
University of Illinois researchers have estimated that between 16,000 and 25,000 women and girls are involved in commercial sex trade annually in the Chicago metropolitan area.
Davis will host the summit on trafficking from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Thursday in room D244 at Parkland. The event is free and open to the public. It is intended to shine a light on human trafficking in Illinois.
It will feature a panel with four guest speakers on the issue:
— Erin Heil, assistant professor of criminal justice studies at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. Heil has conducted research on domestic human trafficking since 2008 and has published a number of articles, as well as a book titled "Sex Slaves and Serfs: The Dynamics of Human Trafficking in a Small Florida Town." She is conducting research on human trafficking in the St. Louis and the metro East region of Illinois, focusing on the local and legal responses to trafficking in the community.
— Chris Baker, founder of INK 180, a non-profit organization in suburban Chicago that offers free tattoo removal and free tattoo cover-ups. Baker offers the service to former gang members, victims of sex trafficking, drug users, and anyone who believes that a tattoo is keeping them from living life to its fullest. He founded his service in October 2011 and has covered or removed more than 1,800 tattoos free of charge.
— Aubrey Lloyd, co-founder of Uncaged Ministries, a clinical consultant for Sarah's Home in Colorado and a human trafficking survivor. She has 14 years of nonprofit experience, working with populations affected by domestic violence, substance abuse, mental health issues and poverty. In 2013 she helped open Sarah's Home for teen trafficking victims, and continues to provide it clinical and survivor based consultation. She lives in Indiana where she and her husband run Uncaged Ministries, where they provide services and support to both men and women, victims of trafficking, exploiters and purchasers.
— Carolyn Klaus of Manteno, who formed and chaired the Kankakee-Iroquois Human Trafficking Task Force. This year she will complete a victims of human trafficking coaching certification program through Building Empowerment by Stopping Trafficking, an internationally accredited organization through the Certified Coaches Alliance.