City announces plan to examine gender-based violence, human trafficking

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s proposed budget for 2022 includes money for more city staff to tackle a two-year plan to reduce gender-based violence and human trafficking in Chicago, according to an announcement from the city.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot presides over a Chicago City Council meeting at City Hall, Monday morning, Sept. 20, 2021.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Several months of community discussions and other outreach have produced what the mayor’s office is calling Chicago’s first strategic plan to tackle gender-based violence and human trafficking.

The two-year plan, announced Monday by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, is the result of a process that started with the appointment of an advisory council in February.

Goals of the plan include improving how police respond to gender-based violence and human trafficking cases, changing what is considered gender-based violence and human trafficking, analyzing what policy changes could reduce such violence and increasing coordination among city departments that focus on prevention and intervention, according to a report released Monday.

To help implement the plan, Lightfoot is proposing a working group, which would include community-based organizations, and an oversight advisory board.

About $25 million in funding for some aspects of the plan is included in Lightfoot’s proposed 2022 budget.

That money would cover emergency financial assistance, as well as help legal services and housing, for people facing gender-based violence, according to the mayor’s office.

It also would fund a new job, director of gender-based violence strategy and policy. And it would increase staff at the city’s Department of Family and Support Services’ domestic violence team and allow the city to hire additional staff to work on the initiative, according to the news release.

Lightfoot described gender-based violence and human trafficking as a “pervasive” issue in Chicago.

“We have an epidemic on our hands and cannot afford to ignore these issues when taking a public health approach to violence reduction,” Lightfoot was quoted as saying in a prepared statement.

This isn’t the first city initiative focused on a specific issue. In August, the city named Ruby Ferguson as the city’s first food equity policy leader as part of a plan to tackle food insecurity.

Elvia Malagón’s reporting on social justice and income inequality is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.

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