Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – Human trafficking is a growing issue both in the country and Wisconsin. Dozens of statewide organizations are raising awareness, but more voices are needed.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline has received more than 2,000 calls from Wisconsin since 2007. The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families has also been contacted hundreds of times over the last few years with child abuse allegations related to human trafficking.
Wendy Henderson with the DCF says numbers are likely higher due to cases that remain unreported.
“The individuals who are in the middle of being involved in that oftentimes don’t identify as victims during that moment.”
Henderson adds it’s hard to keep track of human trafficking due to how sprawling the issue is.
“Trafficking can happen in person, it can happen online, and so that’s another reason why it’s really hard to get our hands around it, and it’s really important that we have a community-wide approach.”
That approach not only includes the DCF and the Wisconsin Department of Justice, but smaller advocates like First Free Church in Onalaska. Outreach pastor Dave Konkol says the church started focusing on human trafficking following a mission trip to southeast Asia a decade ago.
“Some of the women visited human trafficking rescue missions, and they came back with a real passion to do something about this, they opened our eyes to the reality of human trafficking.”
Since then, the church has held speaking events, showed films, and produced newsletters to raise awareness about trafficking.
“Anytime you expose people to the bigness, and the horribleness of this issue, it raises eyebrows, and it raises their consciousness about this.”
As First Free continues to speak out about the issue, Konkol would like to see community members do the same.
“Our theme is basically, raise awareness, become an advocate, and take action.”
Anyone who is a victim, or who knows a victim of human trafficking, is urged to call the National Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Both the Department of Children and Families and First Free Church have additional information online about human trafficking. Those and other resources about human trafficking can be found on our website.