The release of kidnapping victims Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight marks a grave recognition of sex slaves in the modern world. While all three women were held captive and locked in chains for a decade or more, countless others must submit to the hate-fueled world of human trafficking.
We witness stories like these and suddenly realize a forgotten urge to act. We are filled with terror and disgust as we wonder if this could have been our child or sister or friend. But it wasn’t, and as the news cycle pushes fresh atrocities into our frame of view, we forget about the victims while neglecting those who could be enduing similar situations.
The Voices and The Faces project currently credits over 16,000 women and girls as captives of prostitution in the Chicago area. Symptoms of prostitution include a dismissive or fearful demeanor, tattoos located on the neck to signify brands and a dependence on drugs or other substance. Oftentimes those in charge of the prostitutes hook them on drugs as a way to gain power while generating a stronger sense of dependence.
Many women are introduced to the idea of modern-day slavery as a way to escape abusive homes or find a community that promises support. They meet pimps and Johns at such a young age that the game of buying and selling sex only produces a conditioned and objectified response.
“I was not aware that there were that many prostitutes in Chicago, but did assume there were some,” said Monica Cutrone, senior.
“I feel it might be both women who are forced into this industry or women who have no other options as far as supporting themselves or their families,” said Cutrone.
It’s a rather strange concept, nabbing a human and forcing them to submit to the ill-will that defines sexual prowess as the ability to divide and conquer. Many believed that the issue of slavery was abolished with the recognition of the Eighteenth Amendment. But while the Cleveland girls were not posing as prostitutes prior captivity, those involved with the sex trade cannot escape stigmas and consequently are denied opportunities for support.
“Even if people are aware, they might turn the other cheek or look down upon these women associating prostitution with drug use,” said Cutrone.
As the stigmas grow, the campaign, End Demand Illinois, has taken notice in a way that should encourage the public to get involved. By decriminalizing the act of prostitution, End Demand suggests that prostitution does not leave the girls at fault, but rather the ones that control them. Rather than objectifying women who have been forced into a marginalized position in society, the campaign works to shift focus.
The campaign promotes slogans like “Human beings are not disposals” as well as testimonials that prove everyone knows someone who has paid for sex.
The grotesque perpetuation of slaves still takes place in Chicago on a daily basis, but alongside End Demand’s public awareness campaign, legal and social perceptions could change.