By Dylan Deprey
At thirteen years old, kids finally take their first leap towards adulthood. They look forward to learning how to drive. They experience their first relationships, and attempt to survive high school during the awkward teenage life moments that constantly come with trying to find oneself.
Teens should be focused on what they will be wearing to their senior prom. They should be stressing about managing a social life, a new job, sports practices and studies. They should be thinking about going to movies with their friends and enjoying a homework-free summer break.
Teens should not be addicted to hard drugs, living in inhumane conditions and sexually servicing members in our community.
In Milwaukee, this has not been the case for a long time because thirteen-years-old is the average age a girl is groomed and sold for sex.
Milwaukee’s dark underworld strays far from headlines of a new downtown streetcar, but in a $1.5 billion industry, the cash flows from abandoned basements on the north side to high-rise apartments downtown. Teens and young children are being stripped of their dignity, innocence and basic human rights to service adults.
A panel comprised of City officials, judges, experts and advocates assembled at St. Matthews C.M.E to educate neighbors for the monthly Community Brainstorming meeting on July 22, 2017.
Longtime moderator and community advocate, Martha Love held nothing back when speaking on the topic.
“I just want pimps to get their fair share, and even if it’s the next 80 years in jail they deserve it,” Love said. “Because to take the innocence away, and abduct our men and women from our City and have them go across the United States to have sex 10 to 15 times a day is unacceptable.”
A Glimpse of Hope Masks a Real Dysfunctional Family
Before heroin needles, blood stained sheets and long nights wandering truck stops, everyday children and teens are ensnared by the unkempt promises of a loving family.
Judge Joseph Wall said that over the past nine years working to prosecute pimps, he has heard hours of testimony from over 120 prostituted women. He said one of the major commonalities among the women was the lack of a father figure.
“They don’t have a strong man in their life, and many of them had never met their father,” Wall said.
Smooth talking pimps and their top tier prostitute, otherwise known as the “Bottom Bitch,” coerce, manipulate and kidnap young girls and boys from all walks of life.
Past sexual abuse from relatives, parents dealing with drug or alcohol addiction and poverty are precursors that push young people deeper into a pit of despair.
Pimps then date their prospects, otherwise known as the grooming process. They wine and dine these teens with gifts and praise. Pimps ask to be called “Daddy,” and with his Bottom Bitch, they are at the helm of a truly dysfunctional family.
The grooming process is a honeymoon phase that comes to a quick demise as a pregnancy, or drug addiction pin young people into a dark corner forcing them to start prostituting.
“These young girls are looking for companionship, attention and love,” Wall said.
Milwaukee has been called the “Harvard of pimp schools” because methods of violence, manipulation and coercion are passed down through a systemic network of to be pimps. Judge Rebecca Dallat said pimps invoke fear through domestic violence and other degrading tactics.
Pimps dehumanize women by calling their group of prostitutes “a stable,” and force them to “walk the tracks.” Dallat said she has even seen prostituted women branded with a hot iron to signify them as a specific pimp’s property.
“When you see prostitutes in our community, they are not people who enjoy being paid for sex They are being manipulated. They were given no money, and no resources. They were lucky if they were bought clothes, and lucky if they were allowed any kind of outside contact,” Dallat said.
She said it was hard to get testimony to prosecute pimps because the horrific conditions and domestic violence that encapsulates a prostituted woman’s hellish life are hard
“We do not want to send prostitutes to jail, we want to send pimps to prison,” Dallat said.
Words from the Frontlines
Unfortunately, Milwaukee’s high levels of poverty and prime location to other Midwest cities has led it to becoming a major hub for human sex trafficking.
According to Human Trafficking Taskforce of Milwaukee, 92 percent of youth trafficked in Milwaukee are females, and most contract sexually transmitted diseases that can damage the reproductive system.
Milwaukee City Health Commissioner Bevan Baker said Milwaukee ranked 4th in Gonorrhea infections, 3rd in Chlamydia infections and one of the highest-ranking cities.
“The cry for help is drowned in a sea of constant oppression, and the general sense of apathy has been continuing for centuries. This didn’t happen just yesterday, and it won’t happen tomorrow if we do something about it,” Baker said.
Love reported a graphic story from A Cry For Help advocate, Bianca Williams. She said that four prostituted women were living with various venereal diseases in a garage off of Lisbon Ave. on Milwaukee’s north side. She said Williams took the women to Keenan Health Center to be treated, and 30 percent of the girls said they would take the medicine to continue prostituting.
High prostitution areas run along Lisbon and North avenues in Police District 3 on the north side. In Police District 2 on the south side, areas include National, Lincoln and Greenfield avenues.
“After 9 years of being on the frontline, we have only begun to scratch the surface in the fight against human sex trafficking,” said Dana World Patterson, Human Trafficking Task Force of Greater Milwaukee. “If there was only still one soul out there being trafficked, our fight against this abomination would continue, but there are millions.”
A Twisted Man’s Game
Deep-rooted trauma, past sexual assaults and harsh socioeconomic issues contribute to the overarching problems of human sex trafficking.
World-Patterson said that while that may be the case, America must look at where sex is legally being sold. Whether it’s a pornography casting studio, or the backrooms of strip clubs, these gateway
“The trafficker cares less of your zip code, it’s all about the green mean dollar,” World Patterson said.
“It is happening in plain sight, from those dressed sleezy, or those at the university, or those sleeping on a couch to protect them from the dark.”
Dennis Walton, Milwaukee Fatherhood Initiative, posed the deep seeded questions about men’s stake in the equation. What lead pimps to become pimps?
What lead Johns to acquire a twisted sexual taste for young children?
Walton said that sex trafficking was usually pictured as women walking the tracks, and stuck in a whirlwind of drug and violence, but it was also blinded in a smokescreen of money and power.
“We have issues in the 53206, but this is a high-end market for little boys and little girls. We look at the pimps and the women who are selling their bodies, but what about the market for the person who is purchasing these people? What about the people that are in high places where this is their recipe, this is their taste and their flavor, a three-year-old boy or a six-year-old girl,” Walton said.
Making Steps in the Right Direction
Milwaukee most recently made headlines when Alds. Bob Donovan and José Pérez announced, “Operation Dear John.” The two-month project involved hiring a security team to monitor “johns” in high prostitution areas on Milwaukee’s Southside. Frequent “johns” would then be sent warning letters to their home address about their activity.
The Benedict Center announced its second south side location for its Sisters Program on July 14, 2017. The Benedict Center is a diversion program for sex workers in collaboration with the Milwaukee Police Department, community organizations, the district attorney’s office, Milwaukee County Housing Division and the Medical College of Wisconsin.
The Asha Project, on Milwaukee’s north side, was closed back in May 2016, and recently reopened its doors in late May 2017. The Asha Project provides culturally specific services to African-American domestic abuse and sex trafficking survivors in the community.
There has also been work in the State Capitol to reduce the demand for pimps in the state. Two bills announced back on May 28, 2017 would crack down on habitual offenders. The first would make a third conviction for soliciting a felony. The second proposed bill would require people convicted of soliciting or patronizing prostitutes, or keeping a place of prostitution to pay a $5,000 fine. The money would then go back into services for sex trafficking victims and law enforcement investigations regarding child pornography.
BUT, with all of the efforts being done, World Patterson said there is more work to be done and it begins with ourselves.
“We can all do something,” World Patterson said. “You can care. Don’t wait for it to be a daughter, niece, cousin or neighbor. If you see something, say something or call 911.”
She said that everybody in Milwaukee needs to become more aware and to educate themselves on the moral, ethical and human issues involved with this modern-day slavery.
“We don’t have to sensationalize it at all. It’s gruesome enough. Just tell the truth,” World Patterson said.
She also acknowledged Walton for proudly wearing a black “Men4Men” t-shirt. The “Men4Men End the Demand Campaign” was created by Foundations for Freedom, Inc. This campaign opens a safe dialogue for men to talk to each other about sexual exploitation and sexual addictions.
“If men can talk to men in way that is uplifting, honest but uplifting so they feel supported, we can begin to move the needle closer to ending human sex trafficking and exploitation,” World Patterson said.
Dallat also added that although human sex trafficking, pimps and prostitutes were something that seemed taboo, it was the continued dialogue that would spread awareness.
“It’s about educating those girls, about educating the families and educating the boys and the men and the community too,” Dallat said. “There is no such thing as someone giving away sex because they want to give away sex, there is something behind that and we need to be aware of all that.”