By Marian Hatcher
On Columbus Day weekend 2011, I had the privilege of coordinating Sheriff Darts’s pilot for The National Day of Johns Arrests (NDOJA), led by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office. As a survivor of sex trafficking, it was a surreal experience for the sheriff to empower and trust me with this effort that began as eight jurisdictions across the country collaborating to arrest 216 sex buyers. I never imagined it would evolve into what he now refers to as the National Johns Suppression Initiative (NJSI).
The sheriff’s Precept Paper on Demand Efforts, specifically “Sex Buyer” arrests, begins with this quote:
“If we are to intervene in the business of sex trafficking, we need to know much more about the men who buy the women, their thinking and attitudes toward women in general, as well as how they view women they buy. There is certainly an urgent need to address the mental and physical health needs of women and children during prostitution and after escape. But to address the root of the problem, it is equally important to address men’s demand for prostitution.” [Melissa Farley, Personal Communication, April 2006 San Francisco.]
After 11 national sting operations, there are more than 80 jurisdictions partnering nationwide, including the FBI and Homeland Security. NJSI has attained sustainability, growing by 10 times in number of participating jurisdictions and nearly 20 times in the number of sex buyers arrested to date – 4,400 [this does not include the scores of pimps/traffickers arrested]. Charges imposed during the stings have included human trafficking, involuntary servitude, commercial sexual abuse of minors, child endangerment, kidnapping, assault on law enforcement officers, narcotics and weapons, to name a few. Sex buyers arrested have had criminal backgrounds that included convictions for murder, attempted murder, domestic violence, narcotics and weapons. One buyer arrested in a recent operation had just been released for attempted murder of a prostituted person.
Many victims are rescued and freed from slavery and the violence associated with it during these operations as well. During the last two operations, summer 2015 and Super Bowl 2016, 386 victims were recovered, 331 adults and 55 juveniles. Locally, the Cook County Sheriff’s Police Department (CCSPD), under the Command of Deputy Chief Michael Anton and Commander William Leen (my police superiors have mentored and taught me so much over the years), rescue victims and work with me as the human trafficking coordinator and the other human trafficking response team members, Lisa Cunningham and Brenda Myers-Powell (also survivors). Since February 2009, the three of us have provided interventions to more than 500 women, both justice and non-justice involved.
Adult victims once rescued can be placed in our trauma-informed recovery home for prostitution/trafficking victims. Placement for minors depends upon whether or not they are a ward of the state.
Since this operation began through the ninth sting, through our data collection, we have measured an increase of 22 percent, from 61 to 83 percent, online buyer activity.
Considered a national model, the effort is supported in large part by the CCSO human trafficking program infrastructure which I have been honored to develop under the direction of the sheriff’s administration in accordance with the sheriff’s mission and related policy development.
In the spring of 2013, we began a human trafficking internship program for law students from John Marshall, which is now sustainable. Typically I would supervise four to five students each semester (including summer) with the program. Law schools now include Chicago Kent and DePaul. Disciplines have expanded to include criminal justice, psychology, journalism and social work from Loyola, Illinois State and others. John Marshall Law School has established a human trafficking curriculum, which includes intern hours with CCSO, effective January 2015. On average, two John Marshall Interns are required to be under my supervision eight hours per week. To date more than 30 interns have completed the program, and last fall we had five registered.
Once legal students graduate and pass the bar exam (seven have passed to date), they have the option of offering pro bono services to victims of sex trafficking and sexual assault through the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Assault (CAASE) Pro Bono Project, which seeks to connect private attorneys with local survivors of sexual assault and sex trafficking. Each attorney receives Justice for Victims of Sex Trafficking Crimes Act training.
The CCSO human trafficking internship has developed resource materials for National Johns Suppression Initiative Partners, providing state laws and local ordinances related to prostitution demand reduction, as well as victim-centered services. This more than 300-page document is housed in the NIJ-funded website http://www.demandforum.net/additional-resources/, which also provides a summary version. CCSO is the largest contributor to this website.
My goal is to provide experiential mentorship on a direct service and professional level, meeting people where they are and where they want to go, caring for the uncared for, teaching the yet-to-be taught, reaching the unreached and contributing to society on as many levels as God will allow, from the abandoned building and alleys that once consumed my soul, to government and NGO forums, all the way to the church house.
This seems a fitting goal as on Aug. 29, I received an honorary doctorate of divinity, ambassador-at–large and chaplaincy from CICA International University and Seminary, an NGO in special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, (ECOSOC).
Marian Hatcher is senior project manager and human trafficking coordinator for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office Policy.