Human Trafficking | Know the Risks

There is a pandemic that has plagued our world long before the onset of COVID-19. 

For centuries the human trafficking industry, though only recently referred to as such,  has been claiming the lives of women, children, and men. While 99% of the world’s $150 billion a year exploitation industry are women and girls, men fall victim to “The Life” also. “The Life” is just one of the terms used to refer to an individual in a trafficking situation. As an organization focused on the betterment of people and allowing them to live their life as God intends, we are asking you to help bring an end to this exploitive crime that has become woven into our modern world. In order to halt and end human trafficking, awareness and education must occur first. What IS Human Trafficking? 

According to the Department of Homeland Security, ( Human Trafficking is defined as “...the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” In 2019, the United States identified over 22,000 cases of human trafficking with over 14,000 of those being victims of the sex trade. ( 

Now we know the what and the how many, the bigger questions we should ask ourselves are why and what. Why, or how does a person become trapped in a situation like this? What can we do as individual people do to stop the abuse?  

Trafficking experiences can vary from survivor to survivor so it can be difficult at times to identify a situation. One common tactic used is grooming which entails an abuser building a perceived trust with the individual and manipulating the individual to fulfill the abuser’s own wants, needs, and desires. This process can occur over time as the abuser builds trust. Sometimes this process includes a “recruiter” that prey upon people that typically have a poor social status, low self-esteem, or a destitute economic situation. The recruiter offers something the victim is trying to fill such as an emotional or physical need. Many victims are unaware they are being drawn into "the life” as they begin to trust the individual.”  Once the trafficker has gained the individual’s trust, the trafficker will then start requiring “favors” or some type of repayment. This “repayment” is typically sexual in nature. If the victim refuses to comply, it can lead to physical abuse in which the victim either feels they deserve, or simply can’t escape. Victims can also experience what is commonly known as Stockholm Syndrome in which a captor may feel the abuser or trafficker loves them in spite of their abusive treatment. This is why it is so important to know the signs of trafficking in the sex industry. 

Police and law enforcement professionals have been making huge progress in identifying and breaking sex trafficking operations across the country in more recent years. This is due in part to people identifying signs and choosing to no longer stay silent about what they see. There are actually several signs which should set off warning sirens and be an alarming call to action.  Indicators may include, but are not limited to: 

The above are just a few key indicators someone may be living a dangerous lifestyle or trapped in a situation where they may feel helpless or hopeless. The presence of a single indicator does not confirm trafficking but could be a sign of an individual being at-risk and in need of help. 

Here at Hoyleton, our Prevention team offers safe, reliable, and effective programs that help those in subjugation to the industry. With healthy recovery options, the HALO (Healing and Loving Oneself) program offers one-on-one and community-based care. HALO also offers presentations that can be customized by community to help raise awareness of both sexual and labor exploitation. 

While this is a dismal, dark, and disturbing industry, there is something you can do to help stop the machine, or at the very least, slow it down. Those caught up in this industry need you to speak up. When we open our eyes to the world around us and know what to look for, we start to shed light into the lives of those who are in the darkest places. Unless you are a law enforcement professional or licensed social worker, direct involvement is discouraged, but help for someone in need is just a phone call away. The key component and best course of action is to know the signs, spread the word and educate others about the seriousness of Human Trafficking, and encourage others to do the same. 

If someone you know or love may be at risk, the following resources may help you help them find safety. 


Hoyleton | World Day of Social Justice

"Hoyleton Youth and Family Services seeks to enable all people, young and old alike, to realize the wholeness of life that God intends. This will be accomplished with the compassion of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit reaching out to meet the physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and social needs of those with whom we journey."

HYFS Mission Statement

On November 26, 2007, the General Assembly of the United Nations designated the 20th of February, World Day of Social Justice. More than just mere observation, World Day of Social Justice brings together individuals, international organizations, and countries to move forward in protecting the rights and human dignity of individuals in a modern, global world. This year’s theme is Closing the Inequalities Gap to Achieve Social Justice, which continues to shed light on the inequities that occur in an interdependent, global economy that affects the means of production, finance, trade, and migration.

The objective of the United Nations is a lofty one, but the use of the word social justice is also a loaded term. As individuals, we tend to analyze the phrase through the lenses of our own experiences, socioeconomic status, political affiliation, and our religion. The phrase social justice can and does cause a strong emotional reaction that leaves individuals seeking refuge in their chosen tribes. To some individuals, social justice is a hand-up, equal access to means and opportunities. For others, social justice is the slippery slope to a handout, and a step away from socialism; two different schools of thought that lead to intractable stances and stifle dialogue.

While it is beneficial to discuss complex ideas on a global scale, most individuals are concerned with the social dynamics occurring within their communities, such as housing, access to quality food, adequate healthcare, and employment. At a fundamental level, individuals want to protect human rights and dignity for all, while striving for fairness. As an organization comprised of social workers, Hoyleton Youth and Family Services advocates for the wholeness of everyone within a community regardless of their circumstances.

Hoyleton's Mission Statement is not a reflection of political correctness, but of human compassion, coupled with building relationships and social networks that strengthen and uplift everyone within the community. Social workers are concerned with issues that hinder a person from achieving their maximum potential and solutions to removing social barriers. While social justice is a complex term to define and thus implement, its essence is enshrined in The Declaration of Independence. The preservation of the unalienable rights of an individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and the security of those rights, serve as a foundation for furthering human rights for all individuals.

As individuals, let us not become fixated on defining what is or is not social justice, to the detriment of how we treat others, which is a reflection of ourselves. Instead, ponder the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity."

To support the movement that Hoyleton has created in helping individuals that need assistance, visit to see how we are supporting children and families and how you can help.

Internet Safety Hacks and Child Safety

We were all told before the invention of the internet that the world could be a threatening place. While we have made a lot of progress as a society to make the world a safer place, the truth remains that there are still risks facing us.

Random cyberbullying attacks put children and young adults at risk. These attacks can cause mental stress, anxiety, poor academic performance, withdrawal, and, in some cases, a sense of hopelessness that leads to suicidal thoughts and acts, but there is hope. There are several things that you can do as a parent, educator, or guardian to guard against these senseless attacks and to protect children.

Cyberbullying can be made less effective by starting an open conversation. Create a safe place for your child by talking to them and actively listening. Be conscious of body language, and abrupt changes in behavior and academic performance can be crucial indications there is some harassment. If a child feels comfortable talking to someone in authority, they are more likely to discuss the issue rather than feeling guilty or as if they deserve the abuse.

More than 80 percent of teens use cell phones; 10-20 percent of adolescents experience daily cyberbullying. Accessing social media accounts, computers, and other electronic devices your child has can help you to track communication to and from others. Having this access is not a privacy invasion, but the creation of security around them.

One of our main jobs as parents and caregivers is to protect our children. Some steps to protect them may be as simple as limiting private computer time, parental apps on phones that monitor phrases and actions against a cyberbully, and pornographic sites. Some suggestions of protecting them early on is waiting until your child is a teenager before granting access to the cellphones. Some websites indicate lists of anti-bully apps that are available for parents to review. These apps can be free, or some may have one-time costs or monthly subscriptions.

There's a lot that we can do to enhance internet security, and it starts at home. If you don't have children, you can still be their champion. Reporting violence, fostering a positive self-image, and creating a safe space for encouraging conversations. Hoyleton's Prevention Department provides schools with educational resources as well as partnering with schools, and concerned community members to address these situations. Hoyleton's Prevention Department provides educational resources and partners with schools, and interested community members to expand on these matters.

Tips and Tricks

Information resources:,,

If you are interested in more information for your school or organization, please contact Hoyleton's prevention department at

These stats are from

Stats are from May 2019.

Letter From A Minor Survivor

We hope Holyleton has given you insight into trafficking during the National Human Trafficking Prevention Month. We also hope you have learned how you can be a catalyst for change within your culture. Trafficking is not an epidemic that only happens to other people in other areas, but is happening right here, in our communities and to our youth. Human trafficking takes place in industrial and metropolitan areas, towns, and rural communities alike. Hoyleton's Healing And Loving Oneself (HALO) focuses on mentoring youth and young adults, 11-25 years of age, who are identified as at-risk or survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. The path to healing takes time and an advocate willing to fight alongside a client even when he/she cannot fight for themselves.

Below is a letter from a HALO survivor.

We encourage you to open your hearts and understand the courage it takes to move from a place of trauma to healing.

"What would I tell someone who's just starting out at HALO? Well first, I'd say to them, 'It's not going to be easy.' But I would also tell them that, 'It's worth every bit of time and effort.' The healing and growth from the first session to the last will move mountains in whoever's life.

Alexis (HALO advocate) is literally the reason I'm writing this. Not 'cause she made me, but because if it wasn't for her and her fighting for me, because surely I wasn't fighting for myself, I wouldn't be here now where I am. I cannot say that I'm upset that I was ever invited into the program, 'cause I fought so hard against everyone who had my best interest, and they turned around and fought back.'

The most important thing, I think, is that I've learned so much. I learned about myself. I learned that I deserve to be treated good. I am not an object. I deserve to be loved. I learned that everyone has a story, and what you don't deal with will eventually catch up with you. So find one person to share and talk with, even if it's just a second. The moment you realize what's inside that's one less thing that's going to eat at you. Alexis has taught me so much. One being that she's not easy to get rid of. She is my sister/mom."

*A special thank you to the HALO survivor for sharing their story and their creations.

If you know of an individual in need of help, please contact the HALO advocate at 618.688.4725. Or, if you are interested in supporting a survivor of human trafficking with a monetary donation or gift card, please call the Philanthropy Department at 618.688.7094. 

To learn more regarding human trafficking awareness and prevention, please contact the Prevention Department at 618.688.4739. The Prevention Department offers in-community, educational opportunities for individuals, churches, or organizations interested in being a voice for change for victims and survivors of human trafficking. Together, we can fight against human trafficking and restore the social fabric of our communities. One Voice. One Mission. End Human Trafficking.



National Human Trafficking Awareness | Myths vs. Facts

Can you identify which scenario involves sex trafficking?

  1. Michelle, age 15, lives in an unstable home environment. She attends a party with high school friends at Daniel’s house. Knowing Michelle’s situation, Daniel offers to let Michelle sleep on his couch if she has sex with him. 
  2. Elizabeth, age 17, has been in a relationship with her boyfriend Michael for five months. Michael tells Elizabeth that money is tight and she has to help pay the bills by sleeping with a few of his friends. Elizabeth has sex with Michael’s friend. Michael receives $75 from his friend for having sex with Elizabeth. 
  3. Catherine is 21 years old and from a small rural town when she meets Jonathan, the man of her dreams. Jonathan promises to take away and show her an exciting new life. Cathrine agrees and makes her way to Jonathan and the new life she envisions. Once she arrives, Jonathan forces her to perform sexual acts for money. 


The answer is ALL three scenarios are examples of sex trafficking. Sex trafficking is defined as the “recruitment, harboring, transportation, providing, or obtaining of a person for a commercial sex act, in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion. Or, in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age.”1

Learn the Terms

The term sex trafficking is a relatively new legal term in comparison with other distinct crimes. As more individuals become aware of this epidemic, both domestically and internationally, advocates for children continue to push for legislation to protect minors. The Illinois Safe Children Act of 20102 moved to not prosecute individuals under the age of 18 who performed a sexual act in exchange for anything of monetary value. The change in the criminal code addressed that a minor cannot consent to the commercial sexual exploitation of their bodies, and therefore be convicted of prostitution. Minors who are coerced or lured into commercial exploitation are immune from prosecution and are victims. However, a minor can be detained by law enforcement for their safety.

End the Trafficking

Ending human trafficking starts with educating ourselves on the topic and helping to raise awareness. We encourage individuals, organizations, and church groups to partner with Hoyleton’s Prevention Department on how you can make an impact in your community.  Individuals can support the Prevention Department’s Healing And Loving Oneself (HALO) program in providing care to our clients with a monetary donation, or gift cards (in small denominations for food, cell service, etc.). Together, we can protect our children’s childhood and their futures. One Voice. One Mission. End Human Trafficking. 

To contact our Prevention Department, call 618.688.4739. If you are contributing to this program, please note on your gift as the HALO program

1United States Department of Justice.  (October 28, 2000). The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. (22 U.S.C. (7102 (9)). Retrieved from: General Assembly. (August 20, 2010). Illinois Safe Children Act of 2010. (Bill Status of HB6462). Retrieved from:

To learn more about human trafficking, watch for our next blog next week.

HALO | Healing and Loving Oneself

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.

Hoyleton | National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

Help Hoyleton raise awareness of modern-day slavery and human trafficking in our communities through participation in the month of National Slavery and Prevention of Human Trafficking. Since January has been designated as a month to bring attention to an epidemic that helps fight as a nation here in the United States, both internationally and within our communities. Modern-day slavery and human trafficking sound like events that happen to “others” in “that part of the world.” The reality is this misconception is far from the truth. Indeed, newspapers are more likely to report stories of children fighting in armed conflicts and teenagers being sold into prostitution by their unstable families, and to recount the untold numbers and forced to work for little or no pay by men and women. However, modern-day slavery and human trafficking knows no borders and affects individuals regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, and economic status.

During January, Hoyleton will highlight how we are making an impact in our communities to fight against and prevent the exploitation of individuals, especially our youth. Hoyleton’s Healing and Loving Oneself (HALO) Project and Network Of Voice Against Trafficking And Exploitation (NOVATE) are two in-community programs aimed at reaching and mentoring exploited persons, and education communities in the prevention of human trafficking.

Each of us has an opportunity to make a difference in our communities by watching out for our loved ones, friends, neighbors, and those we meet. Building stronger, more resilient communities means looking out for one another with intentionality. Whether you live in the city, suburbs or the country, human trafficking and modern-day slavery are insidious. Do not allow complacency to rob individuals of their basic fundamental right to freedom, dignity, and peace. Together, we can fight against human trafficking and restore the social fabric of our communities. One Voice. One Mission. End Human Trafficking.

For more information on how you can partner with Hoyleton in our fight against human trafficking, call the Prevention Department at 618.688.4739 or click here to learn more about our services.

To learn more about Human Trafficking click here.

Human Trafficking Series Part 3: Halo Program

We hope that from our Human Trafficking series, you have learned the basics of understanding the signs and types of trafficking individuals face. Human trafficking is at an all-time high, and there are people impacted by it every day; however, there are very limited resources for individuals to get help. Because of that, Hoyleton Youth and Family Services has taken a stand and partnered with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to create our Healing and Loving Oneself (HALO) mentoring program.

This program is designed for youth, ages 12–20 years old, in DCFS care who are survivors of human trafficking or who may be at risk. Our HALO staff meet with clients once a week for one hour and establish recovery plans with the individual as they focus on coping skills, life skills, how to build healthy relationships, and set long and short term goals. One of the first concepts we teach our clients is how to define love. Because of their trauma, they often have a misconception of what love is and how it is shown. We teach them love is not shown through violence or exploitation.  Instead, we build them up and allow them to see their greatness and the choices they can make to better themselves and their future.

Another key element we teach is the skill of self-regulating emotions. We help victims identify emotions they feel and how they can regulate those overwhelming feelings to create new healthy outcomes. As we teach each young person the skill of coping with their trauma, our overall larger goal is for them to be able to complete our program and utilize the skills on their own in daily situations. In addition to this, we also take a holistic approach and work with the child’s guardian as they work through the process of parenting a child with trauma and a specific set of needs. Our HALO program partners with our behavioral health team to support the family and provide counseling services to them individually or together as a family. As we work with the youth, it is also important to work with their foster parents so that everyone is on the same page. Then, parents can encourage goals that were set and acknowledge their child’s achievements and what still needs work.

Overall, it is important to keep in mind that every victim of human trafficking has experienced different trauma, which is why we do not have one definite approach we use. As we assess our clients and their needs, we are then able to create a treatment plan that is unique to them and their needs. This is something we take pride in as an organization, seeing that we are one of the only agencies in our district that has a program solely dedicated to human trafficking. We serve six counties: Madison, St. Clair, Bond, Clinton, Randolph, Monroe, and Washington. If you know someone who could benefit from our HALO program and is in DCFS custody, please contact us today: (618)688-4727.

Human Trafficking Series, Part 2: Sex Trafficking

Along with labor trafficking, sex trafficking is one of the most underreported crimes in the United States and is on the rise. From 2007 to 2017 the National Human Trafficking Hotline received 34,700 reports of sex trafficking. According to the F.B.I., sex trafficking is the second fastest growing criminal industry, right behind drug trafficking.

Donate Opportunity: Support our Human Trafficking Support Program Now

According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, sex trafficking can be defined as “recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of an individual through the means of force, fraud, or coercion for those of commercial sex.” Although if the individual is under the age of 18 then force, fraud, or coercion does not have to take place. The average age of sex trafficking victims is 13 years old.

In order to spread awareness, we have compiled a list of different ways individuals can become trafficked.

Internet-based – We live in a time where technology use is at an all-time high, which makes Internet-based sex trafficking very popular and easy to access. Internet-based trafficking can take many forms through various apps and social media that are easily accessible for children and adults. There have been recent reports of individuals being exploited through resale apps, such as, which has recently been shut down. Many traffickers also use social media, like TikTok, as a way to recruit. Since many cases come through social media and dating sites, it is important to be aware of what your children are doing on the Internet.

Street-based – Street based trafficking is the form of sex trafficking that typically first comes to mind when discussing the topic. It is when a trafficker sells a child or adult to gain profit or in exchange for something of value. Pimps/Traffickers will use violence, drugs, or blackmail as a form of coercion. These victims will typically be walking up and down the streets, waving down vehicles, dress very nice and look older than what they actually are. Traffickers will persuade young males or females by complimenting their looks, using manipulative techniques to convince them they are joining a group of people that care about them or ask them if they want to make easy money.

Gang-based – Gang based trafficking is similar to street-based trafficking except it is affiliated through gangs. Members will lure in young boys and girls through bribery with flattering statements about the young person’s appearance or ask them if they would like to make a lot of money. Gang members may buy their victims expensive clothing, purses, or accessories to lure them in. Once they have recruited the male or female, members of the gang typically use drugs and violence as their method to keep the individuals as the gang’s property and then use the victims for profit.

Private Parties This occurs within the transient male population, although females can also be predators. Private parties can be held anywhere and anytime, however, they are most popular during large events, such as the Super Bowl. Predators are very strategic during this time, as they know police officers will be preoccupied with other crimes like drunk driving, shifting the focus from trafficking to other events.

Pornography – This is when pornography involves exploiting victims by recording sexual acts the victim performs. The trafficker can use the footage as leverage to get what they want or to use as training for other victims. An example of this may be a 5-year-old boy whose grandfather takes photos of him while he’s in the bathtub and the grandfather bribes him with $5 not to tell. Then after the grandfather takes the photos, he sells them online.

Sex trafficking can be a very difficult topic to learn about, however, there is high importance on educating yourself, so that you can educate your child or someone you know. There are so many sex trafficking victims in our community that need help, but we cannot help them if we do not raise the funds to do so. If you feel moved by this topic, please donate to our organization to help victims get a better-quality life. Complete the form to donate. 

Human Trafficking Series, Part 1: Labor Trafficking

Human trafficking is one of the most underreported crimes in the United States and Illinois ranks among the top 10 states for it. That means there are cases everyday where individuals are being exploited and taken advantage of without notice. On a global scale, the International Labor Organization estimates that 20.1 million people are victims of labor trafficking. Since 2007, the National Human Trafficking Hotline has received more than 7,800 reports of labor trafficking in the United States alone. Here are some tips regarding awareness toward individuals who may be victims of labor trafficking.

Common Places Labor Trafficking Can Happen:

Labor trafficking can happen anywhere no matter if it occurs in a large city or a small town. Often times, people rule out small towns because of the size of the community and the knowledge of its citizens; however, labor trafficking happens there too. Being located near St. Louis Lambert International and multiple heavily traveled interstates it is easier for victims to be transported between communities. Some of the most common places to do so are in: restaurants, barges, landscaping services, domestic work, beauty services, carnivals, farming, massage parlors, and family owned businesses.

Language & Warning Signs of Labor Trafficking Victims:

If you suspect someone may be a victim to labor trafficking, watching that person’s body language and paying attention to what they say can be key. If they use phrases like “I’m not allowed to” or seem shameful, have unusual tattoos or brandings and don’t want to talk about them, are hypervigilant in conversation, or have long and unusual hours with little to no time off – these could all be warning signs that an individual is a victim of labor trafficking.

Populations Where Labor Trafficking Occurs:

Labor trafficking can often happen to individuals who are in the United States on a Work Visa. Once they are hired, a supervisor may take their Work Visa, which is the person’s identification and proof of their status. This tactic is used as leverage to keep trafficked individuals working under harsh conditions. These traffickers take advantage of victims vulnerabilities to exploit them in a damaging way.

 Hoyleton Youth and Family Services offers support for victims of human trafficking through our Healing and Loving Oneself (HALO) program. Stay tuned next week for Part II of our Human Trafficking Awareness Serious.

If you suspect someone who may be a victim of labor trafficking, please contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.