I-Team Investigation

Human trafficking on the rise in Milwaukee

CREATED Nov 8, 2012 - UPDATED: Nov 9, 2012

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  • Video by wtmj.com


MILWAUKEE- In the past year, almost a dozen people have been convicted of human trafficking in Milwaukee, and it's likely that number will go up.

As you drive down the streets of Milwaukee -- take a closer look. Children are being bought and sold against their will.

Now, some brave women are coming forward, with their personal stories of sexual violence.

Rachel Monaco-Wilcox is a lawyer and assistant professor at Mount Mary College. It's her mission to bring more attention to the human trafficking issue in Milwaukee.

"They get fed what the traffickers want to feed them and they're never allowed any freedom," Wilcox explains.

And most of the time, those victims are sold for sex. In extreme case, forced to service dozens of men a day. Wilcox adds, "The younger the girl, the higher the price."

The local headlines are out there:

Pimp to plead guilty to federal sex trafficking charges; Teen possibly involved in human trafficking

But many people still think it's something that doesn't happen here, and that trafficking is solely an international problem. It is happening here in Wisconsin and in Milwaukee.

La'Ketta Caldwell knows sexual violence firsthand. Her mother was a victim. Now she works with youth in Milwaukee at the Boys & Girls Club. She says human trafficking is prevalent in Milwaukee. "Almost every session I have with a young person, someone shares that 'I've been sexually assaulted, and they've lost their voice.'"

She adds, "A lot of the people who go through it, they feel like it's their fault, and it's not their fault."

The workshop offers victims a chance to share their stories -- through poetry and prose.  People like Elaina, who is now a teacher -- raised in the suburbs, straight "A" student -- a victim of sexual violence when she was only 15.

Elaina reads her poetry:  "I am not who you think I am.  I have not been where you think I've been, nor do I go where you think I go.  I have returned from places you pray do not exist."

The workshop includes survivors of human trafficking and other forms of sexual violence.  It's why this workshop is so important here in southeastern Wisconsin.  Giving victims a voice, ending the silence.

"If we as a society can be more compassionate to the survivors we'll begin to hear the stories," Elaina says.

The more stories told means the better the chances of being able to prosecute these human traffickers in the future.