Fighting Human Trafficking - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Fighting Human Trafficking

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Menomonie (WQOW) - The trafficking trade is something you may have seen in Hollywood movies, but now it's hitting home.

Survivors of human trafficking share their stories from Elk Mound, Eau Claire and other rural Wisconsin communities.

Now community members are focusing their efforts to end this unsettling trend.

"We need your help to really be the eyes and ears in the whole country, for this issue," says Mary Ellison, Director of Policy for the Polaris project in Washington D.C.

"We do have an issue here.  It's not just a city issue, you know it's not an urban issue, it's also rural," says Menomonie resident Naomi Cummings.

Trafficking or modern day slavery exists in the form of labor, sex and even child trades and it's happening right in front of our eyes.

"Especially with I-94, some of the truck stops and also rural areas," says Cummings.

Now community members are taking action with grassroots groups aimed at identifying the victims and prosecuting the perpetrators.

"They're like on the front lines of really being able to help trafficking survivors who are in the community right around them and so they're really invaluable," says Ellison.

Inspired by local survivors to push for victim rights and urging lawmakers to clamp down on this exploitation of others.

"Certainly laws in Wisconsin also need changing and updating to deal with some of the issues," says Cummings.

"The attorney general of Wisconsin, I know, is really interested as well," adds Ellison.

The Polaris Project out of Washington D.C. says Wisconsin has enacted five of twelve key laws it recommends for states in the fight against trafficking.  The remaining seven include some amendments to current laws.

"Women that are charged with prostitution are often trafficked victims and I think we haven't really realized that.  It's really critical to give them victim services and not just throw them in jail," says Cummings.

For those who want to make a difference on a local level, change can be more immediate.

"Everyone can really sort of put their antenna up and try to be aware of what the signs are for human trafficking," says Ellison.

A victim says she fell into trafficking through an online advertisement for work and often people in debt can be swept away into the trade.

"They just don't believe it.  I mean they don't realize what's going on out there," says Cummings.

If you suspect trafficking in your area or are a victim please don't hesitate to call the national human trafficking resource center hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or visit their website.

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