By Nyesha Stone
The phrase sex trafficking isn’t a pleasant one. Most people don’t like discussing the topic, but it’s a real issue here in Milwaukee and we need to address it. Many of Milwaukee’s youth are being exploited and forced into the sex trafficking world right in front our eyes. So, Pathfinders—an organization who empowers youth dealing with homelessness—brought the topic to the center of attention by hosting a series of discussions revolved around the topic.
On Oct. 10, Pathfinders hosted a Milwaukee Youth in Crisis event at Bader Philanthropies, Inc., 3300 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.
Pathfinders held a three-person panel which included Tricia Lewis, New Paths program manager of Pathfinders, Claudine O’Leary, a national consultant of Rethink Resources, and Rachel Monaco-Wilcox, JD, CEO and Founder of LOTUS Legal Clinic with President & CEO of Pathfinders Tim Baack as the moderator.
Many topics were discussed including how we address youth who’ve experienced sex trafficking. Monaco-Wilcox says that many young people don’t get the help they need because of a variety reasons like being addressed as a survivor vs as a victim. Many youths don’t see themselves as surviving something let alone as victims, so learning how to word the situation correctly is a start for those who want to help.
But Monaco-Wilcox also stated that in the legal system they have to be labeled as victims.
“If we’re advocating for a person they have to be associated as a victim,” she said. “In the system, we’re going to call you a victim even though we both know you’re not.”
Lewis then went on to state that most youth who are involved in sex trafficking come from unstable homes.
“A young person is more at risk if they don’t have somewhere safe to sleep,” said Lewis.
The lack of a secure home is one of many issues these youth face. They need money to buy basic necessities, transportation to get to a job and some have emotional needs.
O’Leary suggested we find a system that will create a big data base with all of the findings and research on sex trafficking. There are many initiatives, organizations and individuals who are all fighting for the same cause, but if they came together, a bigger impact could be created.
“[But,] we have a lot of work to do before we blend the data,” said O’Leary.
The discussion then ended with Pathfinders sharing their annual research data of who they’ve served for the year. This year’s study contained data from Sept. 2017-Sept. 2018. And the study found, like most studies do, that more females reported about being connected to sex trafficking. All of the panelist stated that although the data shows this, this isn’t the whole truth. Men and members of the LGQBT+ are being targeted into the sex trafficking industry with number rising every year.
The phrase sex trafficking needs to be said and heard because it’s going on right now in this city.