January is Human Trafficking Awareness month. Human Trafficking. It’s a term that seems inconsistent with our Midwestern culture and values. A term used in other countries where women and children aren’t valued and have few rights. In reality though, human trafficking is an issue right here in our own backyard. In fact, human trafficking has been documented in all 72 counties of Wisconsin in 2013. And here are a few more facts:
• Estimates show it is over a $35 billion industry worldwide
• 98% of victims of sex trafficking are women & girls- ILO 2012
• It is second only to drug trafficking, for largest criminal industry in the world. According to the US Department of Health & Human Services in 2011 it was the fastest growing criminal industry.
• At least 100,000 US children are exploited every year in prostitution in America- Shared Hope
• Estimates are at over 300,000 are forced into prostitution annually in the USA
• Approximately 66-90% of adult sex workers were victims of child trafficking and/or sex abuse
• Estimates that every 2 minutes a child is exploited in the sex industry
• 1 in 3 runaways is approached by a trafficker within the first 48 hours -or-
• 70% of runaways lead to Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) – Youthspark Provider
• 45% of CSEC happen online and 50% in Public- Youthspark Provider
• The average age of a child first used in prostitution is 11-14, some as young as 9- FBI status report 2005
• US spends more on international victims of human trafficking, than on our own. They only officially recognized it was happening in USA in 2006.
• Nationwide there are fewer than 30 safe homes for victims of sex trafficking to receive treatment and services. The severe shortage regularly causes inappropriate placement in juvenile detention centers or jail- Streetlight Tucson 2012
• Victims of human trafficking need a complex & comprehensive set of services that require sensitivity & specialized training- WI HT Protocol & Resource Manual by WI Office of Justice Assistance

The statistics are eye-opening and chilling. And what can we do? There are a number of initiatives and organizations working to end this horrific crime. Locally, the Redeem & Restore Center in Pewaukee WI offers a home and hope to women rescued from sex slavery. To learn more visit their website http://redeemandrestore.org/

Tenth Avenue North is promoting sponsorship of children in prevention of precious children being sold into slavery. Visit the Compassion website to learn more http://www.compassion.com/child-sponsorship/tenth-avenue-north.htm

Listen to their song “For Those Who Can’t Speak”