Sex trafficking may be on the rise in WisconsinVictim advocates and police say sex trafficking is a growing problem in Wisconsin and the state’s laws are struggling to keep up.
By: Rich Kremer, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
Victim advocates and police say sex trafficking is a growing problem in Wisconsin and the state’s laws are struggling to keep up.
A problem that may seem worlds away — children being coerced, sold and even abducted into a sex trafficking industry is actually happening all across the state, according to Jenny Almquist, the director of Fierce Freedom. Fierce Freedom is a nonprofit based in Eau Claire aimed at ending human trafficking; it’s currently working with eight victims from Wisconsin, each with a different experience.
“We have stories that we know where boyfriends in high schools are selling their girlfriends to their friends for revenue and favors,” says Almquist. “That’s happening right here in the Chippewa Valley.”
Special Agent Jennifer Price of the Division of Criminal Investigation says prostitution and sex trafficking are synonymous, and online escort sites like backpage.com or Craigslist are feeding the illicit industry.
“This isn’t just a large town phenomenon,” says Price. “This is happening in our large cities. It is also happening in our smaller towns because … pimps will take their victims wherever they will get money.”
While law enforcement and advocates say sex trafficking is increasing, data is hard to come by. That’s partly because prostitutes rarely report their pimps to the police, but also because counties categorize trafficking differently.
Almquist of Fierce Freedom says legislation needs to catch up with the problem. She says they're starting by working with lawmakers on a bill expunging prostitution charges from the records of women found to be trafficked, so that victims aren't penalized.