(Chicago, IL) – August 8, 2011. Illinois has a new law that aims to help victims of sex trafficking who have been charged with prostitution by opening a legal route to remove the convictions through a court.
“Victims deserve a chance to clear their records and rebuild their lives,” said Governor Pat Quinn, who signed the law over the weekend.
Though the governor’s office provided no statistics in its press release, the Jane Addams Center for Social Policy and Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago could provide some numbers.
In metropolitan Chicago, 16,000 to 25,000 women and girls are involved in commercial sex trade annually, with one third of them first getting involved in prostitution by the age of 15, and 62% by the age of 18, according to the center’s on-line fact sheet.
“Many people consider the sex trafficking of children to be an international issue and not a problem that impacts us here right in our own communities, but that is not the case at all,” said Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez on September 20, 2010.
The new law, sponsored by State Senator Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights) and State Rep. Karen Yarbrough (D-Maywood), allows defendants, who are victims of human trafficking at the time of their prostitution convictions, to file a motion to vacate the conviction as the result of being a victim.
The bill also creates a new filing timeline for victims of sex trafficking because they often endure years of abuse at the hands of traffickers and customers before they are able to seek help.
“The most important thing about Senate Bill 1037 is that it makes sure that the judicial system has a mechanism to ensure that a person who has been the victim of a crime is not automatically considered a criminal,” Hutchinson said.