End Sexual Exploitation
In 2003 I became extremely passionate about ending human trafficking. After spending time working with young women in Thailand who had been kidnapped or sold into sexual slavery I knew that the sex trade industry would not cease to exist as long as there were individuals willing to buy the bodies of vulnerable individuals. When I returned to the United States I founded the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE), a nonprofit dedicated to ending the perpetration of sexual exploitation and harm. Our first major project was to learn more about the demand side of the sex trade. Our research found that over fifty percent of men first purchased between the ages of 18-23. This is when we realized it was essential to create prevention programming for high school boys on this issue. There is no other curricula in the country like ours that addresses the root cause of sexual exploitation by inviting young men to be part of the solution. With so many being fearful to address these issues, especially with young men, CAASE embraces a fearless mentality of having these challenging conversations with a young audience to encourage an entire generation of young men to stand up and reject sexual harm in their own lives and in the lives of people in their families and communities.
CAASE has now completed the roll out and evaluation of this groundbreaking curriculum, which teaches high-school-age men about the exploitative dynamics and violence in the sex trade and deters their involvement in this industry as consumers. At this time, more than 1,500 young men have benefitted from this training. The curriculum is consistent with recommendations and findings for school-based violence prevention programs, in that it teaches emotional self-awareness, self-esteem, social problem solving, and positive social skills – all topics evidencing effectiveness in preventing or reducing violent behavior. The CAASE curriculum engages young men in four 45-minute sessions covering: definitions relating to the sex trade; myths and misconceptions regarding the sex trade; how the sex trade is not only harmful for those being purchased but also for those purchasing it; critical thinking around media messages regarding masculinity and sex trade patronage; and self-identification of ways participants can be part of the solution to end sexual exploitation. The goal of the curriculum is to enable young men to understand the problem of prostitution and demonstrate a willingness to actively oppose it. 1. To reach 1,000 young men in 10 high schools with the curriculum 2. To distribute a teacher toolkit that enables teachers to continue the classroom conversation about sexual exploitation when CAASE educators are no longer present in the school.
Rachel Durchslag, Executive Director of CAASE, is a national leader in the fight to end human trafficking and sexual exploitation. She has been in the field for nine years, and in that time has established herself as a true visionary in effectively reducing sexual exploitation. Under her guidance the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation has passed three laws in three consecutive years, and has developed a legal clinic and multiple tools to help people with their activism. Education Outreach Associate Caleb Probst first became involved with CAASE in 2007 while helping to research the behavior of the “johns” in the Chicago area. He directed "Body and Sold" in 2008 - a play that told the stories of eight prostituted young people in America. In 2010, he wrote "The Strings Attached" and produced it and "The Johns" under the title "Private Lies: Two Plays about Prostitution and Johns." As CAASE's Education Outreach Associate, Mr. Probst has been responsible for successfully bringing the curriculum to high schools and empowering young men to become allies in ending sexual exploitation and violence. The the reason Empowering Young Men to End Sexual Exploitation is successful is it builds young leaders who are equipped with the tools to make a practical and tangible difference in their own community. The program’s success has drawn national attention, and Mr. Probst has been invited to Atlanta, New York, Minneapolis, and Indianapolis to present this work.
The Fearless Changemaker
In 2003 I attended the Chicago International Film Festival and saw a film about human trafficking, which changed my life. After viewing the film, I realized that trafficking was a significant human rights injustice that needed to be overcome, and that there was a dire need for people to step up and think of innovative ways to make change. Knowing that one cannot wait for others to take action to right a wrong, I decided to be brave and make ending human trafficking my life's work. To gain a deeper understanding about the issue, I traveled to Thailand and India to work with young women who had been kidnapped or sold into human trafficking. Hearing their stories and seeing the physical manifestations of the harms they had endured solidified my determination to make this my life's work. When I returned to Chicago I could not find a job in the field, and so again I embraced bravery and founded my own nonprofit. Since its inception in 2006, the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE) has conducted the country's first in-depth research on men who purchase sex, has launched the country's first prevention curriculum for high school aged boys and has reached 1,500 in two years, has opened a legal clinic for survivors of sexual exploitation and has served over 200 clients, has created numerous resources to aid people in their activism, and has passed three laws in three years. One of these laws makes Illinois the only state in the country that does not prosecute youth for being prostituted.