Trauma Informed Congregations


May 27, 2021
Human Trafficking Community of Practice Meeting Recap
The Chicagoland Trauma Informed Congregations Network would like to thank Sharmila (Sam) Wijeyakumar, the founder of Rahab’s Daughters, for her presentation on human trafficking during the May 20 CTICN Community of Practice gathering.

Sam, a sex trafficking survivor herself, shared her personal story, and how that experience led her to start Rahab’s Daughters, an organization whose mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and reintegrate victims of human trafficking into a sustainable and safe lifestyle, while also educating the public about the issue.

Through her presentation, Sam shared some of the statistics on human trafficking:

  • It is the second fastest growing crime in the world
  • A new victim is trafficked every 30 seconds
  • One third of all female runaways in the U.S. will be trafficked within 48 hours of leaving home
  • Forty percent of human trafficking victims in Illinois are minors
  • The average trafficker has five or six girls working for him, and each one is worth about $150,000-200,000 per year.

Traffickers recruit, transport and harbor victims through force or deception with the goal of exploiting them for profit. Sam described how human trafficking takes place everywhere, even in our own communities, through:

  • Escort services in temporary indoor locations, such as hotels/motels,
  • Illicit massage parlors that can be concealed under the façade of legitimate spa services,
  • Outdoor solicitation. Victims are forced to find customers in outdoor locations, such as truck and rest stops. Traffickers more frequently use physical violence in outdoor solicitation than in other types of sex trafficking,
  • Residences used as brothels. Typically involves child victims with boys making up a growing percentage,
  • Bars, strip clubs and cantinas that front as legitimate bars, restaurants, food trucks and clubs selling food and alcohol while exploiting victims for sex and labor behind the scenes,
  • Pornography. The rate of male victimization in pornography is four times the rate, compared to other types of sex trafficking.

Sam shared that labor trafficking can take place through domestic work: live-in housekeepers, nannies, cooks or personal assistants who commonly work 12-18 hours a day for little or no pay, and traveling sales crews that travel in groups to various cities and states selling items like magazines, candy/cookies, cleaning products and coupons. Labor trafficking also takes place through restaurant/food service, farming, construction, hotel/hospitality, landscaping, commercial cleaning services, factories, carnivals, and forestry.

Sam shared ways we all can get involved and make a difference, including:

  • Educating those around us about the realities and impacts of human trafficking. Openly discuss trafficking with friends and family to help educate on the myths and realities.
  • Hosting an information session in your home, workplace, or community organization
  • Volunteering - Rahab Daughter’s offers a wide range of opportunities through its vocational training program, medical and counseling center, fundraising, outreach programs, and more.

If you have suspicion that trafficking is taking place, Sam shared:

  • Never try to intervene on your own. The trafficker could try to retaliate against you and/or the victim.
  •  If the victim is in immediate danger, contact law enforcement or 911.
  • Call the national trafficking hotline: 888-373-7888.
  • Make a report to DCFS if the victim is a child.
  • Contact Rahab’s Daughters., 224-333-0911. Text 260-460-0492.

If you would like to learn more about Rahab’s Daughters’ prevention, rescue, rehabilitation and education programs and how you can get involved, click here.
Wear Orange on June 4-6
Honor survivors of gun violence on National Gun Violence Awareness Day, June 4, and Wear Orange weekend, June 5-6.

On January 21, 2013, Hadiya Pendleton, a high school student from the south side of Chicago, marched in President Obama’s second inaugural parade. One week later, Hadiya was shot and killed on a playground in Chicago. Soon after this tragedy, Hadiya’s childhood friends decided to commemorate her life by wearing orange, the color hunters wear in the woods to protect themselves and others.

Wear Orange originated on June 2, 2015—what would have been Hadiya’s 18th birthday. Now, it is observed nationally on the first Friday in June and the following weekend each year. In the years since, participation in Wear Orange has increased tenfold.

From the south side of Chicago, to community organizers in Queens, to students around the country, we will come together to wear orange and demand a change. 

Save the Date

Sept. 23, 6:00 p.m.

Advocate Aurora Health is sponsoring the annual Strides for Peace Race Against Gun Violence held in Chicago and virtually this year.

Register today for the 8k run, 5k run, 2 mile walk or the Tots for Peace Sprint for children ages 2 10 years old. A virtual race is also available, more details available here.

Donations can also be made separately to the Trauma Recovery Center, to support services and resources that assist survivors of intentional trauma to help end the cycle of violence. The Trauma Recovery Center’s team currently assists patients across eight counties in Illinois.

The Blue Dove Foundation: Transforming The Way The Jewish Community Understands Mental Health & Substance Abuse
Submitted by Dawn Levin, Community Liaison

In the Jewish community, discussions about mental illness and substance abuse tend to be rare, if they happen at all. As a result, many individuals and their families suffer in private and lack the information necessary to address their issues. The Blue Dove Foundation is working toward advancing these conversations, eradicating shame and educating the community.

Raising awareness through outreach is the first step in educating people about health-related issues like mental illness and addiction. We offer a variety of resources for groups and individuals:

Mental Health Tool Kit: helps assist someone experiencing a mental illness or substance abuse-related crisis. The Toolkit is meant to be a first line of defense – not necessarily to resolve a problem, but rather to help identify an issue and refer the individual to an appropriate professional.

Zero Interest Loans: Not everyone who needs treatment can afford it. We are working toward overcoming financial barriers that limit access to treatment programs. Working with our partners, we offer interest-free loans to Jewish Community members who are able to demonstrate a legitimate need and ability to repay the loan. Priority will be given to applicants who are unable to obtain funds through normal lending sources. One of the highest forms of tzedakah is an interest free loan.

Tools & Resources: Using Jewish spirituality and faith as a guide, the Blue Dove Foundation creates educational tools and resources that can be used by individuals. This includes a High Holiday Toolkit and resources for different Jewish holidays.

Educational Speaker Series: Throughout the year, the Blue Dove Foundation co-hosts programs with community partners on a topic that is relevant and timely. These events are developed for the community and by community members and organizations. We always welcome feedback to help us best provide education, share resources and build relationships.

Learn more here.
Catholic Charities Offers Domestic Violence Westside Expansion Program
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago's Domestic Violence Westside Expansion Program provides free and confidential services to individuals impacted by domestic violence.

The goal of the program is to empower survivors, assist them in regaining control of their lives, and ultimately move survivors toward healing.

The program, located at Augustus Tolton Peace Center, 5645 W. Corcoran, Chicago, serves survivors of domestic violence on the westside of Chicago who are 18 years and older.

Services include:
  • Domestic violence counseling
  • Safety planning
  • Case management and advocacy
  • Mental health services, if needed
  • Domestic violence support groups
  • Life skills training groups
  • Referral and linkages to Catholic Charities programs including: Legal, Food, Health Care, Shelters, and Housing

"Our second goal is to collaborate with hospitals and service organizations to increase prevention, awareness, and services for survivors of domestic violence," said Beth Klieger, clinical manager, domestic violence, Catholic Charities. The program will provide community partners with:

  • Outreach and training on dynamics of domestic violence and best practices to screen patients
  • Community education and seminars on healthy relationships

Call 312-655-7106 for intake. For more information, contact Beth Klieger.

Click here to download flyer.
Do You Have a Powerful Story to Share?
If you or someone you know has a powerful story about how you’ve experienced Your Higher Power’s love, tell your story on God Is Love And So Are You: a new multi-faith podcast, hosted by Mary Vasquez, an author, life coach, and survivor of childhood sexual abuse who has conquered post-traumatic stress. She releases a new podcast every Monday, and she’s looking for guests.
If you’d like to share your story, email Mary at with the subject “Future Podcast Guest” along with 1) your name, 2) a summary about you and your story, 3) a passage from your holy book or a poem that relates to your story, and 4) your general availability.
Upcoming Events

June 9, 9:00-11:30 a.m.

Live from the Heart is a partnership between Advocate Christ Medical Center and the Museum of Science and Industry to expose high school students, age 15 and above, and adults to an interactive broadcast of a live open-heart surgery.
Go into the operating room via video conference as a surgical team performs heart surgery. Talk to the surgical team while they are working. Learn about heart health and find out about medical and STEM careers.
The free program will be held virtually via Zoom.

June 14 and 28, 3:00-4:00 p.m.

Meets on the second and fourth Monday of each month

All are welcome to the Southland Gratitude Room on Zoom. We gather virtually each month to:

  • Learn about the benefits of gratitude (there are many!)
  • Support one another and pray together
  • Share creative and fun ideas on how to live a more grateful life
  • Enjoy one-on-one conversations and group discussions on a range of topics, such as the meaning of gratitude, how to create sacred spaces for quiet time or meditation, and the power of living of grateful life

Each Gratitude Room session includes a time of centering/meditation and an opportunity to explore what our sacred texts say about gratitude and living a more grateful life.

June 17, 10:00-10:45 a.m.

Meets on the third Thursday of the month

The Partners For Faith & Health Network was created by Advocate Trinity Hospital and South Suburban Hospital to bring together leaders of all religions, community members, and people in the health field.

We want to work together to advocate and promote lifestyles and activities that prevent and/or support the management of chronic disease in the Southland community. Together, we learn about health topics and discuss how we can improve the health of the people in our community.

June 19, 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

Jackson Park - Columbia Basin Behind the Museum of Science & Industry

Join us as we commemorate Black resilience in a cultural celebration of peace, love and solidarity.

Juneteenth is a celebration of Black resilience. It marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed, but this came a full TWO AND A HALF YEARS AFTER the signing of the emancipation proclamation. Imagine. So on this day we celebrate our collective courage as a people:

Those who carried the torch...Those who carry the torch...and those have yet to carry the torch.

Through our efforts, the legacies of our ascended masters live on and on and on. There's not one corner of the earth in which Black people are not woven into the very fabric of its beginning. On Juneteenth, let us celebrate our resilience! Our courage, strength and GLORY!!! Featuring North and West African Dance, Spoken Word, live musical performances, and words of Wisdom and History from Chicago Community Trust CEO Dr. Helene Gayle, former DuSable Museum CEO Dr. Carol Adams, Nigerian Visual Artist Adedayo Laoye, Yoruba Babalawo Ifagbamila Fagunwa and more! Bring a lawn chain or a blanket and a young person!!!

Complimentary food vouchers for the first 70 guests and chairs for elders provided.

Wednesdays, through Dec. 29, 6:00-7:00 p.m.

“What’s Next?” is a weekly resilience program that combines evidence-based scientific studies with encouragement from faith-based resources. Participants will gain tools to:

  • build resilience amid the difficulties of life
  • learn from their experiences
  • use the knowledge they gain to nourish themselves and the world around them

Attend any or all sessions. LaShondria Purnell, RN, a faith community nurse with Advocate Aurora Health, facilitates "What's Next?" and looks forward to learning alongside you.

Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30-9:00 a.m.

The Prayer Support Line allows us to come together in unity to release our burdens, receive comfort and express our gratitude to God for holding us close during this pandemic.

The Prayer Support Line is a place where we can join with others in prayer for health, healing and spiritual care with the expectation that God will meet us and provide us with encouragement.
We welcome your submissions for future issues of the Chicagoland Trauma Informed Congregations Network newsletter.

Please contact Cindy Novak if you have an event, resource or story you'd like to share. Thank you!