By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Human trafficking isn’t just a Milwaukee problem, it’s a global issue. The Polaris Project reported that in 2016, 40.3 million people were victims of human trafficking throughout the world. The Medical College of Wisconsin found that 340 individuals were believed to be victims of sex trafficking in Milwaukee between 2013 to 2016.
When a person is trafficked, they may be trapped in forced labor, forced to perform sexual acts and more. According to the Polaris Project, 25 percent of victims are children and 75 percent are women and girls. While men aren’t often the targets of human trafficking, one group is taking a stand against it.
The Convergence Resource Center, a faith-based nonprofit organization, offers support to men and women who have experience trauma. The goal is to help them rebuild their lives and there’s a specific focus on helping women and female survivors of human trafficking.
As part of its efforts, the Convergence Resource Center created HEMAD or Human trafficking Educators working with Men and boys to stand Against the Demand. The campaign is specifically aimed at men with the intention being that men sign up to take the pledge against human trafficking.
According to the press release, last year 3,000 men took the pledge and this year its goal is 6,000.
“We’ve had men from throughout Wisconsin, the Midwest and as far away as Florida take the pledge,” said Debbie Lassiter, executive director of Convergence Resource Center.
To encourage men to sign the pledge, HEMAD has a four-minute video, which explains how trafficking works and the impact it has on its victims. The hope is that the video will encourage men to sign the pledge. (Both can be found at https://www.convergenceresource.org/hemad-campaign.)
According to the press release, HEMAD is currently halfway to its goal. It received about 70 signatures from students and teachers from Lake Worth High School. The school’s group, Young Men of Distinction, heard about the video from Dawn Marie Basham, an anti-bullying and anti-trafficking speaker.
Arnold Cifaz, a youth pastor at New Testament Church in Milwaukee and a Convergence Resource Center board member said human trafficking is a modern from of slavery. Men may be contributing to the human trafficking market without realizing it, he said.
“This is a multi-million dollar industry that exists in urban, suburban and rural areas in Wisconsin that we need to put out of business,” said State Rep. Jason Fields, who is also a board member. “The demand will always be there, but we can squash that demand by publicly taking a stand.”
Trafficking doesn’t just happen in person; it can occur through social media as well. In some cases, a person may be a victim without even realizing it. Human trafficking doesn’t have to exist, but everyone needs to put effort forth towards ending it.
If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, call or text the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-3737-7888 or text 233-733.