Around Town with Judy Martini: Supporting Refuge for Women

On January 19, I was able to attend State Rep. Barb Wheeler's Refuge for Women event which was held at the Loyola Retreat Center in Woodstock. This event was held to raise awareness about the sexual exploitation and trafficking of women which is a sad reality for many. The event featured numerous attendees from not-for-profit groups, faith based organizations, and other government agencies and departments. In the Chicagoland area alone there are between 16,000 to 25,000 women and girls as young as 10, being sold though violence, manipulation or coercion for commercial sex or labor exploitation. Many of the women are recent immigrants who have come into our country and been unable to find work, and then approached by individuals involved in the pornography and sex for money business world.

Illinois generates the 5th highest numbers of calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, primarily because of the I-90 corridor and hotel infrastructure located in this region to support a tracking hub area. Currently, there are less than 25 beds with specialized programs in the entire State of Illinois to help these women.

The number one goal of the Refuge for Women program to help a victim of human trafficking is to find the person safe housing and offer them a 3 phase, 12 month faith based healing and rehabilitation program. Refuge for Women currently has shelters in Kentucky and Nevada and has plans to provide at least one shelter in Illinois because of the growing numbers of women affected by sexual exploitation in our State.

For more information about the Refuge for Women program or to make a donation, please contact their Carpentersville office at 708-380-7419, or you can visit their website at www.refugeforwomen.org.

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Judy Martini is community outreach/Fox Lake office Legislative Aide for Rep. Barbara Wheeler.