By Dave Malone
Albert Einstein once said, “The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”
Human trafficking (HT) is modern-day slavery and its victims are those who provide labor or services through force, fraud or coercion. Human trafficking is happening everywhere and it is estimated to be a $32 BILLION business with 27 million victims, making it the second largest criminal enterprise in the WORLD.
Human trafficking is quickly moving from being a “hidden” crime to becoming an evil that many people now recognize as happening in towns all across America. And most law enforcement officials and citizens want to do something about it!
The question becomes: What to do and where to start?
In Menomonie and Eau Claire, Wisconsin, several volunteers have formed a non-governmental organization seeking answers and trying to make a difference locally. Here are some of the steps and actions that members of the Human Trafficking Unit (HTU) have taken:
- They have helped raise money to fight HT through the efforts of Jessie Podolak , now a member of the HTU, who organized an International Justice Mission Run in July, 2012 that raised $22,000. Additional funds have been raised through the efforts of Jenny Almquist, executive director of Fierce Beauty.
- Still others are helping educate and reach out to interested groups to help dispel the myths surrounding these forms of modern-day slavery. One of the HTU participants has established a non-profit effort called Fierce Freedom which is the non-profit arm of Fierce Beauty.
- In 2012, the HTU has been holding monthly meetings and slowly gaining active members–now totaling 28. This volunteer group continues to organize their efforts by creating three working groups to explore how they can move forward: Education group; Legislation group; Prayer and Assessment Group.
- Members of HTU attended the Wisconsin Attorney General’s Public Safety Conference on Human Trafficking in June. Check out our previous blog, Myth vs. Fact: A Wake-Up Call about Human Trafficking, about this event. As a result of this networking/training event, those members now are members of the Wisconsin Statewide Human Trafficking Committee.
- Fierce Freedom has sponsored informational events in the Menomonie and Eau Claire area to inform about human trafficking, with the most recent event held on September 15, 2012.
- Members met with Polaris Project Director of Policy Development, Mary C. Ellison, and are now working actively on lobbying for legislation to more effectively address HT issues.
- The legislative work group has met with Sheriff Ron Cramer, Eau Claire County Sheriff’s Department, who offered ideas for seeking legislative action.
The group is currently exploring how to form and establish a “safe haven” or a “rescue home” to help HT victims transition from their enslavement. As these efforts continue, I will report on the progress.
The above steps are just some of the actions taken and being studied by the local HTU group. Clearly, they are in the early stages of addressing HT issues in the local area, but what is important is that they have begun!
What steps have local groups in your area done to address human trafficking?