Daily Egyptian

Letter to the editor: Rape is not something to party about

People wait to enter the Lil Wayne concert April 20, 2015, outside Levels nightclub in Carbondale. (DailyEgyptian.com file photo)

People wait to enter the Lil Wayne concert April 20, 2015, outside Levels nightclub in Carbondale. (DailyEgyptian.com file photo)

By Tyler Chance

Earlier this month, Levels night club in Carbondale hosted a party themed in violence. The night club unapologetically promoted a “Pimps N’ Hoes” party. Not only is this degrading to women, but it contributes to a false view of women in the male imagination and fuels a culture of violence in Carbondale and in America.

While the cause of human trafficking has been getting more public attention in recent years, it is still seen as an international problem. Contrary to popular opinion, human trafficking is an evil that finds a comfortable home here in the state of Illinois. Additionally, one truth that is often ignored by Illinoisans is that anyone can be a victim.    

Likely due to its role as a transportation center in the United States, Illinois has been called a “hub” of commercial human trafficking in North America. While traffickers take advantage of O’Hare International Airport as a means of importing persons into the country, other traffickers take advantage of Illinois citizens — often children, women and the homeless — by coercing them into harsh labor or forcing them into the commercial sex industry.

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According to an article in the New York Times, each year anywhere from 16,000 to 25,000 women and children are involved in the commercial sex trade in Chicago. Additionally, every year Illinois generates more calls to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline than almost every other state in the union. The calls are made from all regions of the state, specifically midsized towns (often college towns such as Carbondale and Urbana) and the St. Louis Metro-East Area.  

This is not just a Chicago issue. It is very much a Carbondale issue, and it is not something to celebrate.

Sex trafficking includes, but is not limited to, coerced prostitution, the commercial child sex industry and coerced pornography. It is driven by the considerably large commercial sex market that is evident from internet sites where sex-costumers can socialize and learn the best locations for them to purchase sex when entering the state.

Many commercial sexual transactions today are started over the internet at websites such as craigslist.com. While the internet tends to be the source of customers, traffickers take advantage of victims from all walks of life, but especially children and the destitute. Often young people are coerced into the commercial sex market as a means of survival, in order to ensure that they have a safe place to sleep or a meal for the day.

Having recognized the problem, what is the best way to fight it here in the state of Illinois? The answer is definitely not celebrating a culture of rape as Levels is doing, but rather the answer lies in raising public awareness of trafficking and decreasing the size of the commercial sex industry.  

Raising public awareness is something that can be done at the grassroots level without taking funds from the state. As a citizen, do research, start conversations, contact, donate or volunteer your time to an advocacy group like End Demand Illinois, The Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, the Salvation Army or your local women’s shelter.  

Call Levels and tell them why their “party” is inappropriate, offensive and a contributor to a culture of violence against women. You’ve read this article; now share it!  This is the part of the battle that any citizen of the state is equipped to take on.

Through being aware, we can identify situations of human trafficking which can lead to rescues and save lives of those who are victims of both sex and labor trafficking.

In regards to decreasing the size of the commercial sex industry, this is something that we must rely on law enforcement and lawmakers to handle, but we should push them in the right direction. The best way to decrease the size of the commercial sex industry is to deter would-be consumers, and the best way to do that is to increase punishments for those who solicit or patronize prostitutes.  

In a survey of Chicago men who purchase sex, conducted by the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, 83 percent said jail time would deter them from buying sex, 76 percent said having their driver’s license suspended would deter them, and 75 percent said any additional criminal penalties would deter them.  

The answer is right there. Write members of the General Assembly. Write Governor Bruce Rauner. While this criminal law is a matter left up to Springfield, it is our civic duty to petition the government when we feel like justice is not being served.

We also must take a stand against organizations and individuals that trivialize or even, disgustingly, revel in the abuse of women.

Women are not just our mothers, daughters, and sisters. They are people. People with rights and autonomy. People with stories. We are in a nation where one in five women have been victims of sexual assault, where our President brags about his lewd violations of women’s bodies, and where bars have “Pimps and Hoes” parties for fun. America and Illinois for that matter cannot continue to treat women this way.

Together we can fight to end injustice.  

In the words of Abraham Lincoln from an address he made in the city of Chicago, “I leave you, hoping that the lamp will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all [people] are created free and equal.”

Southern Illinois cannot be free and equal if we celebrate the abuse and violence of our own people.

Tyler Chance, a 2013 SIU graduate in political science, is now a Ph.D. Candidate in political science at University of Missouri St. Louis.

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