Two local organizations partner to fight human trafficking

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – According to the New York State Integrated Task Force on Human Trafficking, nearly 2,000 referrals went to the state between 2007 and 2019. Various organizations say human trafficking happens every day here in Rochester. Two local women are working to stop it.

Julie Chapus, is the Director and Founder of Miss Julie’s School of Beauty, which is set to open in 2024. She is trying to spread the word on what to look for in potentially saving a woman’s life.

The signs of human trafficking can be subtle and may only be able to be seen by a certain group of people. Chapus says hair stylists are on the front lines of being able to spot human trafficking. She says human traffickers are deliberate on where they physically hit the girls and women they are trafficking.

“Sometimes you get traffickers that will hit girls on the head, they will rip hair out of the head. We’re one of the only industries that can get into the hair and see what’s happening on that scalp,” Chapus said.

Cosmetologists are then able to call the FBI Exploitation Task Force to report the abuse and potentially stop it.

Chapus is a licensed social worker and knows how to treat conversations like these with clients, and how to teach others what to do in a situation like this.

“When we actually did our first trainings we had some stylists call us and tell us that they feel like they need to make a report because they never knew what they were seeing until they learned from me,” Chapus said.

The training sessions have already proved to be making a difference, but it doesn’t stop there.

“Miss Julie’s School of Beauty will be a Cosmetology School for human traffic survivors and those at risk,” Chapus said.

This is where Founder and Executive Director of Brightstar Community, Sue Kirby, comes in.

“Brightstar is a two-year residential program for women survivors of sex trafficking, sexual exploitation and addiction,” Kirby said.

This two-year program includes everything from peer mentorship, to out-patient treatment, to getting an education if needed.

“If they need their teeth fixed, we’re making sure we’re partnered with Eastman Dental and getting them in for an appointment to look at what their needs are there. Getting their eyes checked, most of them haven’t gotten their eyes checked and they need glasses. Making sure they’re getting a gynecological appointment,” Kirby said.

The survivors are able to live rent-free in the home and take the time they need, in a safe place, to work on themselves.

The partnership between Brightstar and Miss Julie’s School of Beauty allows survivors to have an easy transition from the program to life after.

If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking and want to get help at Brightstar Community, you can contact Sue Kirby at 585-690-2994.