Spotlight on Services: Helping Survivors of Human Trafficking, Increasing Awareness

Written By: The Women’s Center staff

January 11, 2021

Today is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. We can prevent human trafficking in our community by educating ourselves and each other on how to identify the signs of this human rights violation, how to help prevent it, and how to support those who have been impacted by it.

What Is Considered Trafficking?

Human trafficking is the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain labor or commercial sex. The purpose of human trafficking is always exploitation. Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, providing, or obtaining of a person for a commercial sex act, in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, coercion, OR in which a person is induced to perform such an act and is under the age of 18. Trafficking victims can be any age, gender, race, or immigration status.

Common myths vs. the reality (provided by the Polaris Project):

Myth: Human trafficking is always or usually a violent crime.
Reality: The most pervasive myth about human trafficking is that it often involves kidnapping or physically forcing someone into a situation. In reality, most traffickers use psychological means such as, tricking, defrauding, manipulating or threatening victims into providing commercial sex or exploitative labor.

Myth: Traffickers target victims they don’t know.
Reality: Many survivors have been trafficked by romantic partners, including spouses, and by family members, including parents.

Myth: Human trafficking involves moving, traveling or transporting a person across state or national borders.
Reality: Human trafficking is often confused with human smuggling, which involves illegal border crossings. In fact, the crime of human trafficking does not require any movement whatsoever. Survivors can be recruited and trafficked in their own home towns, even their own homes.

Myth: Human trafficking only happens in illegal or underground industries.
Reality: Human trafficking cases have been reported and prosecuted in industries including restaurants, hospitality, cleaning services, construction, factories and more.

Myth: Only women and girls can be victims and survivors of sex trafficking.
Reality: One study estimates that as many as half of sex trafficking victims and survivors are male. Advocates believe that percentage may be even higher but that male victims are far less likely to be identified.

Myth: People being trafficked are physically unable to leave their situations/locked in/held against their will.
Reality: That is sometimes the case. More often, however, people in trafficking situations stay for reasons that are more complicated. Some lack the basic necessities to physically get out – such as transportation or a safe place to live. Some are afraid for their safety. Some have been so effectively manipulated that they do not identify at that point as being under the control of another person.

How we support survivors of human trafficking:

As Waukesha’s oldest resource for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and trafficking, we have been supporting the community for 44 years. Victims, survivors, family, or friends can call our 24-Hour Hotline anytime at 262.542.3828 to speak with our experienced staff, who have specialized training in supporting trafficking survivors.

The Women’s Center is also proud to be a co-chair of the Waukesha County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force.

If your business or organization is interested in having a training or learning more about how to address human trafficking, call us at 262.542.3828.