EAU CLAIRE Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – Human trafficking is an issue that knows no borders. It can affect anyone, anywhere. Here in the US, January is national slavery and human trafficking prevention month. The chance of someone falling victim to a human trafficking scheme is 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.” That’s why Cat Morgan with Fierce Freedom wants people to adjust their thinking about human trafficking.

“We want people to really 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 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, 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 warns it’s happening everywhere.

In rural areas where there isn’t a lot of reporting going on, 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. For the past few years, Weld says Eau Claire has put out a proclamation to 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,” said Weld.

An important step in ending the cycle of entrapment says Morgan: 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 7. 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. 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,” said Morgan.

That’s why Fierce Freedom is working to pull the product of people off the market. Weld says the proclamation against human trafficking will be presented Tuesday during the Eau Claire City Council meeting. For more information and to find out how to report human trafficking, you can head to our website.  Fierce Freedom will be presenting a film at the end of the month to educate people and bring more awareness to the issue. It is 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 premieres on the 27th at the Mabel Tainter Theater in Menomonie at 6:30 p.m.