The History of Chicago Sex Trafficking

The sex trafficking industry in Chicago is closely tied to gang activity and the fact that Chicago serves as a transportation hub for the country. Unexpectedly, most of the women and children trafficked come from Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana, not overseas, and are either homeless, foster children, or runaways.

In 2003 an article in the New York Times labeled Chicago as a national hub for human trafficking. Throughout 2011 there were 98 potential cases of human trafficking reported in Illinois and 30 confirmed cases of sex trafficking, the majority of which occurred in Chicago, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. In the Chicago area between 16,000 and 25,000 women and girls are involved in prostitution each year.

As the industry is closely tied to gangs in Chicago there seem to be several networks operating independently: Asian networks, Latino networks, and domestic networks.

The Asian networks are mainly run under the guise of legitimate massage parlors, karaoke bars, or as online escort services. The “Johns” (clients) that this network caters to is primarily middle to upper class businessmen.

The Latino Networks are primarily run through residential brothels, clubs, and some massage parlors. In contrast to the Asian Networks, the Latino networks are closed off and serve only Latino males, and also control the women and children through abuse and violence as opposed to isolation, language barriers, or psychological control.

Finally, the Domestic networks, which comprise the majority of Chicago’s sex trafficking industry are run on the street, in strip clubs, via the internet, and at truck stops. This network is composed mostly of under 18 year old girls who are controlled via physical abuse, rape, assault, and threats towards family members. Nightly Quotas of $200-$1,000 dollars are imposed upon the women, and if they do not hit their quota they are beaten. Pimps generally control multiple women at the same time, earning upwards of $600,000 per year.

A study conducted by Rachel Durchslag, AM and Samir Goswami surveyed over 100 men who had previously purchased services from prostitutes in Chicago. There was no strong correlation between the education level, age, family income, or number of sexual partners the men had and their buying habits. Many of the men (34%) find women via websites such as Craigslist, Eros, Chicagoescorts, Chicagoreader, and Adultfriendfinder. Others found women indoors, most commonly in bars, strip clubs, or escort agencies. Most men first engaged in the sexual services upon the urging of family members, friends, or peers. The average age when men first purchased sexual favors was a staggeringly low 21 years of age. An interesting statistic also collected in this survey found that 30% of the male buyers firs hired a prostitute as a means to lose their virginity, or as a right of passage to become a man.

The following image shows the most active sex trade venues in the Chicagoland area:



Source: Domestic sex trafficking of Chicago women and girls (Jody Raphael, Depaul University)


The History of U.S. Sex Trafficking

There are many examples of sex trafficking in various forms throughout history dating back to ancient times, but in the United States the first widespread occurrence of sex trafficking coincided with the Atlantic slave trade. Slaves brought to America were often forced to perform sex acts with their masters, and were beaten for disobeying, attempting to run away, or for various other reasons.

It was not until the early 1900s that slavery or human trafficking and sex trafficking started to diverge and draw attention to what was dubbed “White Slaver Trafficking.” In 1902 the International Agreement for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic was drafted, which was ratified by twelve countries. This prompted the United States to pass the Mann Act in 1910 which prohibited transporting a person across state lines for the purposes of prostitution or other immoral purposes.

Though Sex Trafficking is now an internationally recognized issue and many laws have been passed against it, between 600,000 and 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year for sex trafficking purposes, and even more are trafficked within their home countries according to Viviene E. Cree, author of Confronting Sex Trafficking: Lessons from History.

In the United States many of those drawn into prostitution rings or abducted by pimps enter the sex trafficking industry between the ages of 12 and 15, with the vast majority entering before their 18th birthday. The women and children drawn in are typically homeless, foster children, or come from broken homes. Many children who have run away from home are picked up by pimps who act as though they are going to take care of the child and give them a place to live, but start to demand money to cover living expenses once a relationship has been established, leading to the pimp’s solution of prostituting the child.

The problem of sex trafficking is steadily growing in the United States, and it does not receive as much exposure in the media when compared to other crimes and underground syndicates. Recently more efforts to combat sex trafficking have been cropping up such as the Polaris Project which has established a national hotline and provides many services for victims of human trafficking.

And Then There Is Datqunn Sawyer

Datqunn Sawyer was found guilty on 10 counts of “10 charges of sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion and sex trafficking of minors as well as conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors by force.” (

for more on the article, visit the Sun Times website:

or check it out on Twitter:

Chicago pimp guilty of trafficking young girls – Chicago Sun-Times via @suntimes ( 

Compared to Dennis Hof of The Bunny ranch in Nevada, Datqunn sounds like a a bad man. “He pounded their feet with a hammer, bloodied one girl’s head with her own high-heeled shoe, poked a pregnant girl’s belly with a pimp stick and split her head open with a glass ashtray — all to force the girls, as young as 13, to prostitute themselves and hand him their money.”-(

Does that sound like he was looking after the best interest of his slaves? I don’t think so. There is no way a pimp who treats his slaves like that cares about their well being. To contrast with Dennis Hof who runs a ‘legitimate’ business, his slaves make over $100,000 a year. Does the question come down to how well you take care of your slaves? If you protect and pay them for their work, does this make it acceptable, all the while being legal under a state law. What if Datqunn operated his trade in a state where it was legal? These are questions one needs to consider when formulating an opinion on the issue of sex trafficking.

The sex trafficking business in Chicago sheds grim light on the danger of its victims. There is no legitimacy, no way of making a comfortable living, no way to support a healthy lifestyle. The Chicago sex trade is run by criminals who do not care about the well being of the girls they dehumanize. While this trade may be lucrative, the cost to a victims well being is priceless. Nothing can ever bring back what is lost when a victim is sold for sex.


The “Brighter” Side of The Bizz

Dennis Hof, is he a pimp? He has a license?

Certain rural parts of Nevada has legalized brothels. These brothels are under heavy regulation, but they still carry out legal ‘legitimate’ business. Dennis Hof is a brothel owner and licensed pimp to the women who work for him. To Dennis and his employees, they are making a living doing what is legal in the state of Nevada. They also claim to love what they do. The question becomes: If women sell their bodies for sex under a license allowing them to do so, is it still considered trafficking?

John Stossel played devils advocate on this issue.

John Stossel Investigates The Bunny Ranch (

The women seem happy don’t they? The reality is however, that they are still being trafficked. The reason they seem happy is because they enjoy the environment. This poses another question: Does legalizing the trade improve the outlook of the women doing the selling? The Bunny Ranch in Nevada seems to think so.



Patricia Mulhall: One Just World

Patricia Mulhall is a International Coordinator and Brigidine nun with One Just World, an organization designed to spread awareness about global poverty and developing humanity. These YouTube videos show different aspects of sex trafficking and describe what creates a demand for the business. (Note, the titles for the videos seen below are my take away from the videos)

The Business: 2nd Place in the World Economy

The Buyer: It Takes All Kinds

The Bought: A Prey on The Vulnerable

Prostitutes and Department Stores

“What do prostitutes and a department store Santa Clauses have in common? If sex acts were stocks, which ones would yield history’s biggest gains and losses?”

Steven D. Levitt and Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh co-wrote a study called An Empirical Analysis of Street-Level Prostitution. This study was about forced prostitution in Chicago and examined specifics regarding the different aspects of the business.

“It’s a classic example of an economist trying to tackle a very complicated problem just by looking at numbers,” Samir Goswami, associate director of policy at the Chicago Homeless Coalition, told the Chicago Tribune. “It’s flawed because the numbers do not explain the social situation these women are in. It’s not just a business transaction.”

While CBS points out the flawed aspect of the study, you need to take into account that the study was show financial statistics of the industry. Not to demonstrate the dehumanization of the victims. On that note, lets look at how prices vary based on customer demographics and type of sex.

Table 1

Variables in this table show base price averages for different demographics and sample price averages taken for the study.

Just like any service offered by a business, the more laborious or complicated the act, the more expensive.

Below is another table that shows the different ways Chicago Prostitutes make money and whether or not they were being pimped. It is important to note that when a prostitute has a pimp, she can make more money. This is because a pimp is able to open her up to more clientele and provide protection for her. It also keeps the business model focused on selling sex and only sex. When a prostitute does not have a pimp, she is more limited in clientele and results to selling illegal substance or stealing.


Sex Trafficking: The largest Slave Trade in History

To give you a sense of how large the sex trafficking industry is worldwide, here are some specific points. First, Sex Trafficking is the trade of humans. They are treated as a commodity. It is an extremely lucrative industry with average of $32 Billion per year and an estimated $650 Billion accounting for all illegal international trade. (International Labor Office) Since the year 2000, the number of victims used in the trade has increased while the cost per unit (human) has decreased.

A global average was done to calculate the cost per slave (USD): 1 slave costs $1,895 but can turn over $29,210 per year. This creates an extremely large profit margin (15 fold of the original cost of purchase). (Human Rights Review) With individuals being so cheap to buy but yielding such a high return, it is no wonder why this industry is able to flourish. With over a 15 fold turnover from the initial investment, a Trafficker is able to accumulate extremely large amounts of capital to continually invest in and grow his business.