‘Buyer Beware’: Brown County Human Trafficking Sting Results In 35 Arrests

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) — The Brown County Sheriff’s Office has a message for people looking to purchase sex in our area: “Buyer beware.”

That’s what Chief Deputy Todd Delain said Thursday during a news conference on a recent human trafficking sting in the county.

“If you’re a buyer looking for sex in Brown County, buyer beware. You might be dealing with a law enforcement officer that’s looking to arrest you,” Delain says.

Thirty-five men were taken into custody over the course of a 4-day operation, between Monday, July 17, and Thursday, July 20.

The arrests were made in conjunction with the Green Bay Police Department, De Pere Police Department, Ashwaubenon Public Safety Department, Brown County Drug Task Force, Wisconsin Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“About 99.9 percent of the stuff we do is on the internet, whether it be Backpage, Craigslist, or any other escort internet websites that we use,” says Sgt. Matthew Wilson, Brown County Sheriff’s Office.

 

To read the full story on 7 WSAW: Click Here

Pathfinder Center Opens Doors To Human Trafficking Victims

CENTRAL SOUTH DAKOTA — In the least likely of places, Lisa Heth found the place where she could finally provide refuge for human trafficking survivors.
What was formerly a run-down motel, is now a brightly decorated, long-term shelter for women and children — and the first of its kind in South Dakota.

The Pathfinder Center, which formally opened its doors early last week, has 13 bedrooms uniquely decorated by a variety of organizations and individuals who provided sponsorship.

One bedroom has a queen-sized canopy bed covered in a delicate, white-ruffled comforter, while another is brightly painted pink and yellow with affirmations written on the wall. And another bedroom, Heth designed herself, has hand-painted blue feathers outlining the ceiling.

“One size doesn’t fit all,” said Heth, executive director of the Pathfinder Center. “Every room is different, specifically for each woman’s various needs. What works for one may not work for everyone.”

The center is located in central South Dakota, but the specific city and location are being withheld from the public for the safety of the women.

Heth, who is executive director of Wiconi Wawokiya, has been working with trafficking and domestic violence victims for the past 25 years. Wiconi Wawokiya is a nonprofit victim services organization located on the Crow Creek Reservation in central South Dakota.

She first got the idea to open the center in 2015. A seemingly random phone call from a motel owner led Heth to the bank to ask for a loan to turn the motel into a shelter. Almost two years later, Heth is ready to open the shelter for services.

“These women should come into these rooms and feel the love that went into decorating them. To know that someone out there cares about them,” Heth said.

To read the full article and watch the video by Libby Leyden on The Daily Republic: Click Here

Immigrants Are Among Most Vulnerable To Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a nearly $32 billion industry and more than 27 million people are victims of the illicit business on an international scale, according to the Polaris Project, which is tasked with fighting human trafficking in its various forms.

The Administration for Children and Families, which works with the Department of Health and Human Services, estimates that human trafficking is the second fastest growing black market activity.

In 2013, the state’s Human Trafficking Policy Task Force found that immigration plays a unique role in the underground world.

“Undocumented workers are often particularly vulnerable to abuse due to their lack of immigration status and fear of deportation,” a report by the task force stated.

Additionally, many who are the victims of trafficking for forced labor or sex slavery have trouble getting the services they need.

“Other realities inherent to victims of human trafficking, such as a survivor’s criminal history, lack of housing history, and/or immigration status, may make it difficult or impossible for survivors to qualify for government services,” the agency’s report said.

New tactics are recommended to law enforcement by the agency, which encourages authorities to explain to potential victims that questions about trafficking are not intended to determine somebody’s immigration status.

New legislation filed by Gov. Charlie Baker at the beginning of August is aiming to allow police in Massachusetts to hand over illegal immigrants suspected of crimes, including human trafficking, to federal authorities.

To read the full story by Bradford Randall: Click Here

Conference Connects Human Trafficking To Opioid Epidemic

2017 SART human trafficking conference
Marlene Carson, founder of The Switch national anti-trafficking network, speaks on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, during the Modern Day Slavery: Human Trafficking in Our Neighborhoods conference held at St. Francis University in Loretto.

LORETTO – A vulnerable drug-addicted teenage girl is kept for hours in a dingy hotel room being forced to have sex with a series of strangers who learned about her services by searching on the internet.

Her compensation at the end of the ordeal might be some heroin and a little bit of money.

It is a scene many local residents would associate with far-off foreign countries where corrupt law enforcement systems turn a blind eye toward women being kidnapped, smuggled across borders, and held hostage. But that type of exploitation is actually taking place in communities all throughout Pennsylvania, including the Johnstown region.

In an attempt to draw attention to the issue, the Cambria County Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) held the Modern Day Slavery: Human Trafficking in Our Neighborhoods conference for social workers, law enforcement officers and others on Monday at Saint Francis University.

To read the full article by Dave Sutor on The Tribune Democrat: Click Here

How The New Anti-Trafficking Bill Will Help To Curb The Human Trafficking Epidemic

Anti-trafficking advocates have lauded the measure that recently passed the House of Representatives. Here’s why.

The House of Representatives recently approved a new anti-trafficking bill (H.R. 2200) which allocates over $500 million over the next four years for domestic and international programs to support victims and persons vulnerable to human trafficking. This is an encouraging step to enhance efforts by the U.S. government in preventing human trafficking, protecting trafficking victims, and prosecuting traffickers. Named for the famed American abolitionist, the “Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act” reauthorizes funding for programs within the Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Labor, and State, and the U.S Agency for International Development, highlighting the importance of tackling this growing problem through multiple channels.

The fact that H.R. 2200 passed with no recorded opposition is a testament to the fact that human trafficking is being increasingly recognized by both political parties as a serious national and international problem. Anti-trafficking advocates have lauded this bill, and several other anti-trafficking bills passed by the House this year, as strong statements that the U.S. is committed to the fight to end modern slavery. These efforts also reveal the complexities of combating human trafficking, with the bill advocating for a more comprehensive response — one that approaches the problem from several levels.

INCREASED RESOURCES FOR VICTIMS

This bill places more emphasis on the prevention of trafficking compared to the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which was reauthorized by Congress four times by overwhelming majorities in 2003, 2005, 2008, and 2013. Not only will H.R. 2200 bolster the identification of trafficking victims through more educational programs, but it will provide funding to increase programs that provide victims with more assistance, such as trauma-informed care or long-term housing options.

Community-based organizations that provide services for victims are notoriously overtaxed and often struggle to meet the needs of all groups that seek services. As a result, crucial resources such as shelters and psychological counseling are scarce. This bill will help organizations to better meet victims’ needs.

ENHANCED PREVENTATIVE MEASURES FOR CHILD TRAFFICKING

H.R. 2200 brings attention to the importance of preventing future exploitation. One important area of focus is the prevention of child sex trafficking in the United States. Through more age-appropriate information in human trafficking to students, school teachers, and staff, we can raise awareness of the tactics used by traffickers to manipulate and exploit victims. School officials are well-positioned to help recognize warning signs of children who are most vulnerable to trafficking and to prevent them from being exploited. With increased awareness regarding the signs of trafficking, school officials can also be called upon to report potential trafficking cases to authorities.

To read the full story by Mellissa Withers of University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine on Reuters: Click Here

Human Trafficking Survivor Helps Educate Healthcare Providers In SW Missouri

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. With recent raids for suspected human trafficking on more than a dozen massage parlors in Springfield, the disturbing issue has hit home. Many in Springfield spent the afternoon learning more about human trafficking at a conference that has been planned for several months.

180 people registered for CoxHealth’s free human trafficking conference Friday afternoon. They got to hear firsthand from a sex trafficking survivor. Kris Wade was 18 and at a Chicago train station for only minutes, when she says a man offered her a place to stay and a meal. 
Before she knew it, she was under the control of a motorcycle gang that forced her into prostitution.

Wade shared some of the things that made her vulnerable to traffickers. 
“I just really had no respect for authority and like a lot of 18 year old kids, I considered myself queen of the universe and pretty much knew everything in the world there was to know. And I think that couple with my undeveloped teenage brain and my risk taking, thrill seeking capabilities, that made me vulnerable to these guys,” says Wade.

Wade’s advice for parents is to build trust-based relationships with your kids from a young age, and teach them to say no and not show vulnerability to bullies, which is what pimps and traffickers are. Wade also says, “Their kids need to know that they love them unconditionally, that if they get in trouble, it’s ok to tell their parents if they’re in a difficult situation. Parents need to support their kids no matter what.” She says her parents were loving and supportive, which she says ultimately helped her get away from the trafficking.

Wade is now the president of The Justice Project in Kansas City, working to combat trafficking. She and other presenters focused on teaching those in healthcare to look for signs like torture injuries, tattoos showing ownership, burns, and multiple STDs.

To read the full story by Linda Russell on KY3: Click Here

September Monthly Reflection

A prayer for the ones left behind

By Michele Morek, OSU

On May 25, International Missing Children’s Day, I was reading a Prayer for Missing Children by Jane Deren (Education for Justice) when I was struck by a thunderbolt of conscience.

It was a lovely prayer, praying for missing children, including those kidnapped, trafficked, lost as refugees, or lost in conflicts. But it did not only pray for the children. It remembered the suffering parents or other loved ones, comparing their anguish to the suffering of Mary and Joseph when they lost their son on a trip to Jerusalem. (Luke 2:42)

It made me realize—with some shock and shame—that while I often think of and pray for people who are trafficked or kidnapped, I rarely go deeper and think of the others affected: the parents, spouses, friends, and wider community.

I had reason to feel guilty, because I should know better. My friend and sister in religious life was kidnapped, and I know firsthand the sorrow and panic of those left behind: community, friends, classmates and family. Not only the immediate worry and pain, but the pain which persists for years as we witness the continuing suffering of our loved one—manifest in PTSD, nightmares and flashbacks—or if they are still missing, imagine what they might be going through and wonder if they are still alive.

A doctor with expertise in dealing with kidnapping and torture victims came for a healing session with my religious congregation, and explained that a kidnapper / trafficker / torturer does not only hurt a single victim, but victimizes the whole community of family, friends, or religious congregation.

Think of a mother’s anguish, fleeing from war and violence, as she suddenly realizes that a child is no longer with her. Think of a father’s pain when a child is kidnapped or trafficked, as he takes on an additional burden of guilt.

Now imagine the silent suffering of a family living in extreme poverty, who may have sold the child to traffickers in order to feed the rest of the family, or so that the child’s life would be “improved.”

When we pray for trafficked persons, let us remember to pray for those left behind, and to pray that somehow the world might learn how to address the extreme inequality that leads to poverty and violence.

Further Study:

Read Luke 2:42 and imagine how it would look in modern-day headlines.

Check this resource for nonprofit organizations seeking to provide support services for families with missing members. In addition, many states have their own agencies providing support services for such families.

Michele Morek OSU