Suburban Facility Helps Sex Trafficking Victims

Anne's House is one of few programs in Illinois dedicated to helping trafficked females

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    Anne's House, which operates under the Salvation Army's PROMISE program, helps women an girls who have been deeply traumatized by sex trafficking and prostitution. NBC 5's Marion Brooks reports.

    A Salvation Army program is one of the few in Illinois dedicated to helping the estimated 16,000 women and girls trafficked or prostituted in the Chicago area at any given time.

    That figure, published in a 2001 study by the Center for Impact Research, is a shock to many.

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    Once in that life, it is very hard to get out because services to help are scarce, which is why the Salvation Army started Anne's House.

    Sixteen year old "Jackie" came to Anne's House six months ago.

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    "After I got raped, that's when I started to learn about prostitution," said "Jackie," who was 13 at the time.

    She says she was used by two different pimps, but managed to escape the second.

    "I had to wait until he was in a deep sleep because you just move and he wakes up. And he had a gun, so of course, I'd be scared," she said.

    "Jackie" said she's still fearful he'll come after her because "he's capable of anything."

    Anne's House helps girls like "Jackie" by providing a long-term residential program for women and girls under 21.

    It's exclusively for victims of sex trafficking victims and housed in a suburban location that is kept secret over concerns for the residents' safety.

    Lynne Johnson, of the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE), says this is exactly the type of care these victims need, particularly in dealing with the trauma that often goes along with prostitution and trafficking.

    "People in prostitution have rates of post-traumatic stress that are almost as high as people in combat war," Johnson said.

    Anne's House assistant administrator says the girls often deal with "flashbacks, nightmares and defiance."

    Despite the high numbers of trafficked women in Chicago every day, there are very few services, like Anne's House available.

    An Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority Study last year found that there were only 12 beds in the entire state devoted to the residential long term care of sex trafficking victims. Eight of them are at Anne's House.

    The facility provides intensive therapy, a secure, home-like environment with constant support, rules and structure.

    Anne Bent, is the "Anne" in Anne's House. She donated $1.2 million to fund the program in 2009 because of its "boots on the ground" method of dealing directly with those affected.

    "They come to a place that is safe, very structured and where what is expected of them is very clear. What they get in the home is a true home," Bent said.

    "Jackie" is now a sophomore in high school with clear plans for her future.

    "I'm going to college, for sure. It's no doubt," she said.

    CAASE helped push legislation through the most recent session of the General Assembly that will allow increased fines for pimps, johns and traffickers to go into a new "Specialized Services for Survivors of Human Trafficking Fund."

    The Illinois Department of Human Services will use a portion of those funds to support programs like the Salvation Army's Anne's House.

    The bill awaits the Governor's signature.