Chicago exhibit raises awareness about human trafficking

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Chicago ranks third in the nation when it comes to human trafficking, which is a problem Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez is passionate about.

But on Monday night, an event on the city's North Side took place that was all about surviving and healing after a life on the streets.

At the ‘Awakenings Foundation,’ they showcase art made by survivors of sexual abuse, rape and now human trafficking.

The gallery may be small, but the messages are big and powerful. 

"We showcase it as a means of letting the public see in a different way, maybe not a way they are used to hearing and seeing the story," said gallery owner Jean Cozier.

Cozier started ‘Awakenings Foundation’ and now owns the gallery of artwork created by the survivors.

She, herself, is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, and now a musician and writer who believes in the power of art therapy.

"It gets it out of you and then you can see it separately from yourself,” Cozier said.

Last year, the Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force held workshops for human trafficking survivors to meet with art therapist Kristina Sundermann.

"It was really amazingly powerful to be able to see the survivors work together to get their story out,” said Sundermann.

The final product is now part of an exhibit designed to raise awareness on the issue.

"People don't understand that trafficking takes place under our nose every single day,” Sundermann said.

"It's a big problem because Chicago ranks number 3 in the national human trafficking hotline,” Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said.

Alvarez says that's why she created a task force to focus on prosecuting local trafficking cases and surviving the trafficking life. 

"It’s all about healing and getting through this process and knowing that there is something better out there,” Alvarez said.

"Too many people like to pretend it doesn't exist and we are here to shove people's faces in it,” Cozier said.

The gallery is located at 4001 North Ravenswood and is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 to 4 p.m.

The exhibit runs through the end of January.

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