January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month
ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU) - Human trafficking is an issue that knows no borders. It can affect anyone, anywhere.
In the United States, the month of January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking prevention month.
Human trafficking can be defined as the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain a form of labor or commercial sex act.
The chances of someone falling victim to a human trafficking scheme are greater than most people realize.
“Their trafficker has identified a weakness in them and so they have exploited that weakness and so for any of us, we can think what is a vulnerability or weakness that I have,” Cat Morgan with Fierce Freedom said.
That’s why Fierce Freedom, a human trafficking advocacy organization, wants people to adjust their thinking about human trafficking.
“We really want people to not buy into the wrong definition because if you’re looking for what you think it is over here and you’re like ok, I know what this looks like, you’re going to miss what it’s actually looking like when it’s right in front of you,” Morgan said.
Morgan says there are no limits on who can be targeted.
“We’ve seen people from four years old being trafficked to someone who is older,” Morgan said. “Elder abuse that, happens.”
Another misconception is that trafficking is a face-to-face crime based on easy money.
“Money doesn’t have to be exchanged for trafficking to occur, it can be drugs, the use of a car, it could be social media clout, likes, and attention and things like that,” Morgan said.
Morgan warns it’s happening everywhere.
“in rural areas where there isn’t a lot of reporting going on,” Morgan said. “A lot of it happens online.”
With Eau Claire nestled in between Minneapolis and Chicago, City Council President Terry Weld says the Chippewa Valley isn’t exempt.
“There’s opportunity there where people are coming from metropolitan areas and being forced to into more or less modern-day slavery, in that regard,” Weld said.
For the past few years, weld says Eau Claire has put out a proclamation stand against trafficking.
“The hope is to continue to bring awareness to the community, to the individuals that have experienced it and showing compassion to them and recognizing their pain,” Weld said.
Morgan says things like the proclamation is an example of an important step in ending the cycle of entrapment.
“When someone is in trafficking, the average amount of times that person will attempt to leave and kind of keep going back to it is seven,” Morgan said. “You can’t really pull someone out of trafficking and rescue them, that’s not the case.”
Morgan says as long as there are people willing to pay, others will continue to suffer.
“We believe that the reason trafficking exists, continues, and grows is because people are buying it,” Morgan said. “If you think about any product, if someone would stop buying it they would take it off the shelf. They’re not going to sell something people aren’t purchasing.”
That’s why Fierce Freedom is working to pull the product of people off the market.
Fierce Freedom will be presenting a film on January 27th called, “The Real Faces of Human Trafficking”. It will share the experiences of someone who was trafficked and someone who paid for it. The film premiere will be located at the Mabel Tainter Theater in Menomonie and starts at 6:30 p.m.
The Eau Claire City Council will announce its human trafficking proclamation at next week’s meeting on January 11th.
If you or someone you know may be a victim of human trafficking, the National Human Trafficking Hotline is 1-800-373-7888.
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