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New approach to ending prostitution

A campaign aiming for “a 180 degree shift” in the state’s response to prostitution will be launched tomorrow morning with a conference featuring Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, the former director of the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons program, and survivors of prostitution and sex trafficking.

Instead of repeatedly jailing prostitutes, letting johns go, and overlooking pimps and traffickers, End Demand Illinois will press for services for victims of prostitution along with aggressive prosecution of their exploiters, said Samir Goswami, policy director of the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation.

CAASE is convening the End Demand coalition with a $550,000, three-year grant from the Novo Foundation.

One goal is to “create a funding stream for an infrastructure of care for people victimized by sexual trafficking and prostitution,” Goswami said.

An estimated 16,000 women and girls are regularly prostituted in Chicago, the vast majority of them recruited as minors, said Lynne Johnson, CAASE’s advocacy director, and they commonly face issues of substance abuse, homelessness, and extreme violence.

“Arresting them over and over is the exact opposite of what’s going to solve the problem,” she said.

CAASE has been advising Dart’s Trafficking Response Team, which employs former prostitutes to offer women arrested for prostitution the option of recovery programs and support services.

It’s also one of the only groups in the nation to focus on reducing demand for prostitution, Johnson said. One of its initiatives is a curriculum for young males about why they should not buy sex, she said.

Survivors of prostitution are are being trained to lead and represent the End Demand Illinois campaign, Johnson said. Among the speakers tomorrow morning will be Olivia Howard, a former prostitute who was the subject of Jody Raphael’s book, Listening to Olivia.

The End Demand Illinois launch takes place Thursday, September 17, starting at 8:50 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency, 151 E. Wacker. Catharine MacKinnon of the University of Michigan law school will give a keynote, followed by a panel discussion and a media availability from 10:30 to 11 a.m.

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Category: criminal justice, human services, violence, women

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