sex trafficking

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National statistics indicate that nearly one in five women have experienced rape or attempted rape at some point in their lives.

While April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, The Women’s Center of Waukesha works year-round to bring greater awareness to sexual violence and the efforts being made to combat it. The 40-year-old center serves women, children and men impacted by domestic abuse, sexual violence, child abuse and trafficking.

Maayan Silver

For the past week, WUWM has been reporting on sex trafficking — what it is, who's affected, and how activists and

Lacey's Hope Project

Sex trafficking has been reported in all 72 counties across Wisconsin — earning the state a reputation as a hub for the crime. Some elected officials are working to end the problem.

State lawmakers have considered a number of bills in recent years in an effort to toughen laws pertaining to sex trafficking. Federal and state law defines the crime as the use of force, fraud or coercion to compel someone to have sex for money.

Maayan Silver

Near Washington Park on Milwaukee’s west side, Nancy Yarbrough runs the Humble Beginnings organization for women facing domestic violence, drug addiction or sex trafficking.

In homage to Jeffrey, a 17-year-old boy who lost his life to human trafficking, the organization gives away fleece blankets to victims and others who need help. Yarbrough says the blankets were hand-sewn and donated by a 15-year-old girl from Tomah.

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Michelle is a sex trafficking survivor. She says it was a milestone when she started sharing her experiences. “For a long time, due to the fear of being discriminated against and preconceived notions of what it is to be trafficked, I was really too afraid to step out and tell people,” says Michelle, who’s originally from Milwaukee.

It’s important to note that Michelle isn’t the woman’s real name, but we’re using it to protect her identity. Also, Lotus Legal Clinic connected us with her and vouches for her story. 

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Milwaukee has a reputation as a hub for sex trafficking. So, what is it? Who is it affecting? What are the numbers?

Here's a primer on what the crime looks like here in Milwaukee.

What It Is  

Sex traffickers get an adult to exchange sex for money through force, fraud or coercion. But it’s also considered trafficking to have a child exchange sex for money, under any circumstance.

Traffickers may separate victims from family, control their lives and even move them from one city to another.