Hultgren backs bill targeting sex trafficking

Susan Frick Carlman
scarlman@stmedianetwork.com | @scarlman
May 25 12:30 p.m.

U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren has joined those taking aim at the demand side of the human trafficking problem.

The Winfield Republican recently addressed his House colleagues in support of HR 3530, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. If passed, the measure will amend the federal criminal code to impose penalties for crimes involving trafficking. It also would have a deterrent effect, Hultgren said, by reallocating existing grant funds for victims’ support, and it could bolster authorities’ resources for enforcement and prosecution of traffickers.

Hultgren hosted a presentation May 7 in Washington, D.C., for members of Congress and their staffs that spotlighted the connections between pornography, prostitution and the sale of people, mostly women and young girls, into sexual slavery. He is working on a bill intended to address the correlations between human trafficking and the demand for prostitution and pornography.

A big part of the challenge, experts agree, is the rarity of charges against those who seek out sex for money.

According to Illinois State Police records, solicitation arrests in 2011 numbered 95, which was just 12 percent the 2007 level, after the numbers fell each year in between. Prostitution arrests also decreased, though less dramatically, over the same period — but the volume was substantially greater. During 2007, Illinois authorities made 2,075 prostitution arrests, and in 2011, the total was 1,871.

One of the solicitors charged in 2011, who calls himself Chigod7, posted to online acquaintances he’s made through a web site designed to help men find sex. The comment was shared during a recent presentation on human trafficking hosted by U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam at Benedictine University in Lisle.

“Well boys after 20+ years in this hobby it has finally come to an end … But I will need help to keep my record cleaned,” the accused wrote, asking for attorney referrals in the hope of expunging the arrest. “I talked to 1 already but he said it will be in the Thousands of dollars to clear me! Damn if I had that kind of money I would be with escorts.”

A member of the Congressional Human Trafficking Task Force, Hultgren has made the issue a priority of his second term in office. His legislative proposal will target “government-sanctioned prostitution” in other countries as a significant contributor to the prevalence of domestic sex trafficking.

Unfortunately, the threatened trafficking of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls recently kidnapped by the militant group Boko Haram would not be an isolated incident. Hultgren wrote in an op ed piece earlier this year that an estimated 21 million people are being trafficked worldwide, making it a criminal pursuit equaled only by the international trade in illegal firearms. The U.S., he said, is among the primary destinations for trafficked women and girls. In addition, some 100,000 American minors are victimized by traffickers annually, Hultgren wrote, among them the 16,000 to 25,000 women and girls sold as sex slaves in the Chicago region each year.

“Human trafficking is commonly dismissed as a global problem,” he wrote. “However, many are unaware these repulsive acts are happening in our own backyard.”

A story about local human trafficking and what’s being done about it can be found at napervillesun.suntimes.com/news/humantraf-NAP-05042014:article.

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