Written by: Melania Klemowits, Executive Coordinator at Exploit No More
Hey Freedom Fighters,
I just read another news article about someone claiming that they were a potential victim of human trafficking because they were followed in a grocery store by a "creepy man." Now, don't get me wrong - I'm not selling their story short or suggesting that being followed around is right, but I am saying that incidents such as these do not have the earmarks of human trafficking.
Human trafficking and sexual exploitation is a "trending" topic right now. The media covers it more and more and parents are taking to Facebook to heed warnings to other parents. I was talking with a high school social worker earlier this week who informed me that three of her students had previously been trafficked. That's three too many students. We get inboxed, voicemails, and emails every week from community members who are fearful and confused about what the issue of trafficking means for their kids and neighborhood.
My heart hurts every time I read an article like this. It hurts every time a parent announces they're living in fear. It hurts when people aren't living their best lives because they don't want to be kidnapped.
The honest truth? Kidnapping makes up less than 2% of all violent crimes and rarely involves weapons. Abusers, like someone who exploits others for profit, depend on the grooming process in order to control and manipulate their victims. The grooming process, to train someone for a specific purpose, takes time and energy on the part of the trafficker. He or she may take months to build a foundation of trust and love with a victim. Even after the abuse starts, grooming can still take place as the relationship between abuser and victim evolves.
Traffickers rely on mastering social norms to fly under the radar in broad daylight. They have a specific agenda to their behavior with a targeted end game of maximizing profit. A trafficker is an excellent master of disguise and will blend in so as to not even be noticed in most social and public environments.
Knowing the red flags and warning signs of trafficking are essential for everyone to be aware of. Not only can it keep potential victims safe but it ensures that the issue of trafficking isn't sensationalized. As we've said before, don’t let what is shocking cause us to miss out on the subtle tactics most traffickers use.
You may have seen our recent post about the woman we met the week of the Fourth of July who was being trafficked in the Delafield area. Many people responded with comments about her situation and questions on how to help so we thought it would be good to address some of these things across the board.
To level set, we did not express in full detail what happened during our time with this woman or outline her situation verbatim in our public post for a this defining reason; it is our job to ask for collective prayer, not to re-exploit her by sharing her story.
Her story is for her to tell, not anyone else to repeat.
Were the police or CPS contacted?
Yes, the police were contacted. No, CPS was not contacted because the woman is over the age of eighteen.
Is Exploit No More mandated reporters?
This young woman is in her early 20's so there are different mandated reporting requirements set forth by the government for adults and minors. Technically, we are not mandated reporters but of course, we report and refer to the most appropriate NGO's to assist individuals and to our law enforcement contacts, including local and federal.
What is Exploit No More's protocol for emergency situations like this one?
Our connections are vast and our protocol is efficient as it takes into account what the individual needs and wants, versus what we think they need and want.
What happens next for this young woman?
The road to freedom and recovery looks different for each person and at the first point of contact, many individuals aren't able to leave that life behind for various reasons, including abuse and drug addiction, like this young woman. That is why consistency matters because helping a trafficking victim isn't a one-time thing, it is difficult and ongoing. Our aim is to be a friend on the journey to freedom, healing, and hope for the future.
As some of our responses begin to touch on, the issue of sex trafficking has many moving parts and at times, resources are scarce or limited due to individualized needs. A huge way that our organization is committed to combat trafficking is through the MKE Resource Hub.
What is the MKE Resource Hub?
Before the MKE Resource Hub became what it is, organizations throughout the community of Milwaukee kept noticing an unfortunate pattern of not enough personal care and basic necessity items for populations in need. Some organizations had an abundance of resources, some had none, and others had items that were expiring.
When CRAY, Collaborative Rapid Advocacy for Youth, recognized that resources for victims and survivors of human trafficking as well as high risk youth were not being distributive in an effective way, they began to brainstorm ideas on how to bring balance into collaboration; which is how the Resource Hub came into existence. Through meeting the necessity for hygiene and health, one of the vulnerabilities that traffickers target, lack of basic needs, is greatly reduced.
The organizations who will be benefiting from this pool of resources will be able to personalize backpacks filled with personal need and self care items for the populations they work with. Paired with the driving force of the community donating items, volunteering time, and spreading the word, the program will make the maximum impact.
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