Hoyleton’s HALO program (Healing and Loving Oneself) is an in-community care service designed to raise awareness around human trafficking and support at-risk individuals between the ages 11-25 who are at risk or victims/ survivors of human trafficking. Survivors of human trafficking include individuals who have been trafficked for labor services and commercial sexual exploitation (CSE). Through both grass-roots effort and state involvement, HALO is reaching out to individuals who find themselves in difficult situations and vulnerable to exploitation. By raising awareness in the community, HALO advocates are changing the way society defines and relates to individuals who have been exploited.
Youth who have been trafficked were once viewed as criminals within the justice system and now are considered victims. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 defined trafficking and related offenses as federal crimes. The framework of the TVPA of 2000 brought the legislative power to focus on protecting, prosecuting, and preventing human trafficking domestically and internationally. The Illinois Safe Children Act of 2010 further solidified that youth who are lured or coerced into commercial sexual acts would be immune from criminal prosecution. Both legislative acts opened a dialogue and the need for language sensitivity in defining and protecting youth who have been exploited. Previous use of the term juvenile prostitution implies the child was a willing participant in the exploitation rather than a victim. By removing references to juvenile prostitution from the Illinois criminal code, it changes how law enforcement and community service providers view and treat youth who have been exploited. Now under the law, children are not arrested for soliciting but rather placed under the Department of Children and Family Services’ (DCFS) guardianship. At times, a youth may be detained by law enforcement for their protection and safety.
HALO’s trauma-informed model is woven into the program and strives to provide a safe space where youth who have been exploited can process their experience. Youth are referred to the HALO program through either DCFS or concerned community members. HALO advocates work to meet an individual’s needs, sometimes even starting with a client’s most basic need for food, a safe place, and clothes. As the youth and HALO advocate continues to build a bond of trust, attention is given to healing and processing their experience. It is common for a client to reject the label associated with their experience—human trafficking. Only by discussing and understanding what defines a healthy relationship/environment, can a survivor begin to make sense of their story. The HALO program fosters a positive sense of self and empowerment through learning life skills, creating/maintaining healthy attachments, trigger recognition, and learning coping mechanisms.
Success for the youth is incremental. And each step forward in their recovery is to be celebrated. It is the goal of HALO to help each youth realize and maximize their potential. For more information regarding HALO or human trafficking advocacy, call the Prevention Department at 618.688.4739. Together we can protect our children’s childhood. One Voice. One Mission. End Human Trafficking.