DuPage panel to address reality of child sex trafficking
Parents and educators are the target market for a panel discussion and documentary screening set for Thursday about the shadowy but real issue of child sex trafficking.
The Lombard and Downers Grove-based nonprofit Reclaim13 is hosting the session along with the Rotary Club of Naperville and law enforcement leaders to reach moms, dads and teachers with the knowledge that children are enduring sexual exploitation -- even in an area as relatively safe as the suburbs.
The free, public event, called "Child Sex Trafficking in the Suburbs: Myth, Reality and the Need for Action," is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Homeland Security Training Center at the College of DuPage, 425 Fawell Boulevard, Glen Ellyn.
Presenters will screen the 2017 documentary "The Path: Into Hidden Sex Trafficking," which was produced in part using Rotary Club of Naperville funding.
Club member Nancy Limberg-Meyer said the film illustrates one way predators take advantage of vulnerable teens: by slowly befriending them on social media, earning their trust, then asking them to perform sexual acts for themselves or others.
"That's fully entrapment then," she said. "How are you going to turn back if you're 13, you've been involved in such a thing and now you're at the mercy of this predator?"
As a parent of now-grown children, Limberg-Meyer said, sex trafficking was never among her fears about things they could encounter. But she's learned it should have been through her work with Reclaim13.
"It isn't limited just to big cities and scary neighborhoods," Limberg-Meyer said. "This is something that goes on literally around us."
Reclaim13 operates Cherish House in Downers Grove, a long-term residential care center that serves as a safe place for children ages 10 to 17 to relaunch their lives after abuse and exploitation. The organization also runs prevention and education programs to teach ways to avoid high-risk situations that could lead to abuse.
"Thirteen is often quoted as the average age of entry into the commercial sex trafficking industry, and almost every child that Reclaim13 has cared for was first exploited before that age," Cassandra Ma, executive director of Reclaim13, said in a news release. "Our goal is to raise community awareness and engagement for a critical problem that most adults are unaware exists in our suburban communities."
Presenters also will include DuPage County sheriff's Sgt. Joshua Schindlbeck, who is set to discuss how the sheriff's digital forensics unit assists with investigating sex trafficking cases.
"Hopefully people will make time for what is a critical issues as a parent, grandparent or any person who believes we need to protect children from this evil," Limberg-Meyer said.