Since 2007, nearly 75 female homicide victims and children from Will County are recorded.
Enter the 21st annual Will County Take Back the Night vigil and march, which united residents, civic leader and other community members in supporting survivors and remembering lives lost through violence.
“It’s a beautiful event because we have survivors and supporters coming together,” said Anna Miller, co-chair for Will County Take Back the Night. “Sometimes people feel like they’re alone, they come here, and they feel supported. It’s a beautiful, power atmosphere. They don’t feel lonely anymore or find the strength to get through another day or the strength to leave a bad situation.”
New this time around, the program’s keynote speech focused on human trafficking.
“It’s a growing problem in Will County, and I think most people are unaware of that,” Miller said. “It’s also aligned with what we’re trying to do, which is trying to bring awareness to gender-based violence.”
Throughout the world, 4.5 million people are victims of sexual exploitation or trafficking.
“It’s hard for people to understand sometimes when they hear about human trafficking and sex trafficking occurring here in the United States, and when we tell you that trafficking occurs right here in the communities right around here, it’s hard for people to understand that until they understand what sexual exploitation and trafficking actually looks like,” Reclaim13 executive director Cassandra Ma said. “When we tell people that sexual exploitation oftentimes starts and begins in a very young child’s life in the form of sexual abuse, 90 percent of victims of sex trafficking were first sexually abused in childhood. That statistic is born out again and again in the work that we do.”
Reclaim13 is a non-profit organization focused on sexually abused and exploited children, and they provide support to individuals through its mentor program and Cherish House, a home for commercially sexually exploited youth.
During the program, Will County Circuit Clerk Andrea Chasteen presented Will County Take Back the Night with a check in the amount of $4,750.
A number of area organizations that support women in Will County organized booths, and representatives were on hand during the program to give people a chance to learn more about the options available to those in need.
Miller said having these organizations present works two-fold, in terms of creating awareness for community resources committed to women and raising money to support Will County Take Back the Night.
This year, a scholarship was awarded to a survivor as part of Will County Take Back the Night’s effort.
To the beat of a drum, the program concluded with a march led by loved ones representing individuals who died.
Will County Take Back the Night 2017 was made possible thanks to the event’s co-chairpersons Amirrah Abou-Youssef and Anna Miller