SACIS helps trafficking victims year-round

Kennedy Nolen, Multicultural Reporter

January is Human Trafficking Awareness month in the United States with Wednesday being a whole day dedicated to awareness.

However, Sexual Assault Counseling and Information Service in Charleston brings attention to this topic year-round.

SACIS opened in 1977 with the main goal being to provide free, confidential counseling and advocacy to survivors of sexual assault.

This year, because of a lack of funding, Feder said the organization will post on the SACIS Facebook page. Since the school year is just starting up, she said it is difficult to plan specific events at high schools and at Eastern.

Although no events are taking place in January, Feder said SACIS is brainstorming ideas to take place in the spring. Showing a documentary on sex trafficking is listed as an option, she said, since it is the number one form of trafficking. A Q&A panel will be paired with the documentary.

Amanda Feder, preventionist and the organization’s director of education, said SACIS is victim-centered and their clients’ overall well-being is the top priority.

Feder learned about human trafficking in 2003, when a representative from World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization, visited her church in a suburb around Northwest Chicago. She and the other members of her church group watched a documentary about sex trafficking in India, which piqued her interest in trafficking awareness.

When Feder looked up jobs to help victims of trafficking, she said she found houses for them right in her area, making her realize trafficking is not just a foreign concept.

She said this helped her decide to get a Master’s degree in communications studies with a concentration in public advocacy rhetoric.

Through education and awareness, Feder said SACIS can prevent, to a degree, potential people from becoming trafficked.

Feder said since most victims are runaway or homeless teenagers, SACIS makes sure to teach students about social media and Internet safety as well as discuss signs of abuse, assault and trafficking.

The number of human trafficking victims is lower than assault victims because a lot of people do not know how to detect the difference between prostitution and trafficking, Feder said.

According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, Illinois had 153 reported cases of trafficking reported in 2016 with 119 of the cases being sex trafficking.

Online sites like Craigslist and Backpage are hubs for human trafficking, Feder said. A lot of “pimps” use code words when advertising.

However, on Tuesday Backpage shut down the adult advertisements section in the United States after pressure from the government.

Feder said many people think trafficking is just like the movie “Taken,” but it can happen to anyone at any time and happens all across the United States, as well as globally. She said men pose as a boyfriend to lure vulnerable targets into trafficking and use tactics such as manipulation to get victims to cooperate.

In both sexual assault cases and sex trafficking, Feder said it is never the victim’s fault.

SACIS and Eastern teamed up in 2011 to have sexual slavery survivor Chong Kim come speak to students and the community during “Take Back the Night,” a national event to end sexual and domestic violence.

Feder said Kim was lured in by a man posing as her boyfriend and later trafficked in Las Vegas.

“One thing I can say is that (trafficking) can happen to anybody,” Feder said. “It can happen in any situation, and that is the most serious and alarming thing.”

Kennedy Nolen can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]