RDCCW Hosts Workshop to Describe Survivor Trauma, Hope for Defeating Sex Trafficking
By Sharon Boehlefeld, Features Editor
November 2, 2017
ROCKFORD—She was 13-years-old.
She was sitting alone near the Miami hotel pool where she and her mom were living, a first step in escaping from an abusive husband and father.
An older teen, “Mary,” walked up, as if to befriend her. 
It was the first step in an attempt to recruit Katariina Rosenblatt into “the life” of sex trafficking.
Fortunately for Rosenblatt, her mother’s advice to “Just Say No” to drugs kept her from falling victim that time. But the intial horror wasn’t over.
“Mary became irate and she said, ‘Now you’re going to make this up to me. You just made me lose money.’
“The next day they kidnapped  me and they were going to get rid of me. They drugged me and left me for dead.”
She managed to crawl to a payphone and get help ... that time. 
Just a few years later, under different circumstances, Rosenblatt was unable to protect herself and was taken into a sex trafficking ring. It would be several years before she escaped.
Her experiences convinced her that her calling was  both to find ways to prevent other children — boys and girls — from falling victim to sex trafficking and to help those who survive.
Rosenblatt, who later earned a doctorate and studied law, was the morning speaker at a sex trafficking workshop sponsored by the Rockford Deanery Council of Catholic Women, Oct. 27 in Rockford.
Her story stunned listeners.
“I’m so grateful that this is finally being addresed,” said Claudia Woodward of St. James Parish in Rockford. “It’s a terrifying reality. It’s so important for the awareness to continue to grow.”
Rosenblatt’s story “raises a number of questions,” said Kathy Riplinger, LCSW, who is a family counselor. “Why it seems to be so difficult,” is one question. “Can’t there be protections written into law, so the victim doesn’t have to fear?”
Charlotte Meier of Boone County Court Appointed Special Advocates, said 80 to 90 percent of the children she works with in foster care are survivors of abuse and potential victims of sex traffickers.
‘It’s appalling,” said Todd 
Seyller of St. James Parish in Belvidere, who attended with his wife, Lin, an active member of the parish’s pro-life group. 
“For me, it’s hard to be a man and listen to this. We’re not all like that,” Todd said, adding, “It’s really about dignity ... of life.”
“When you are in a nice home, it’s important that you hear” about things like this, said, Maria McKillip of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish in Rockford.
Rebecca Christensen of First Free Evangelical Church of Rockford said the information is going to be useful in the ministry she is involved with at her church. 
Jennifer Cacciaplaglia and Lori Johnson, cofounders of Rockford Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, talked about the prevalence of human trafficking in Rockford, the second most active area in the state of Illinois, and in the state, according to new data, the fifth most active in the nation.
An afternoon panel (see photo, bottom of page) talked about the status of survivor support from law enforcement, the courts, social services and Catholic Charities.
“I think it went well,” said Cathy Vendemia, president of Rockford Diocesan Council of Catholic Women of the workshop. “We have to talk about this as a community.”
The RDCCW is next developing a project about domestic violence, a problem closely linked to sex trafficking, Vendemia added.