Human trafficking is a horror story of sexual exploitation, emotional and physical abuse, and of victims held captive against their will. We certainly don’t expect it in our own communities.
Unfortunately, it is a huge problem in the United States and in the speaker’s backyard of Racine, Wisconsin. Due to the city’s location off of a major interstate highway and its high rates of poverty and unemployment, Racine is a breeding ground for traffickers and its youth are primary targets for exploitation.
This is a tough situation, but the good news is that the brave people of Wisconsin are not standing by. Local law enforcement and local community groups teamed up in 2014 to tackle this epidemic. A group of concerned Racine citizens founded the Fight to End Exploitation (FEE). The group’s primary goals are to educate the community about human trafficking, assist victims, and support girls who have been trafficked so they can be reintegrated into society.
“Through a comprehensive ‘victim-centered’ advocacy approach, and a supporting policing model that supports the restoration of those who have been victimized and exploited, together, we are making significant progress in the fight against human trafficking,” Racine Police Chief Art Howell explained.
Right away, this teamwork had results. The information shared during the first task force meeting in 2014 with FEE and law enforcement of Racine and nearby Kenosha resulted in the rescue of four victims.
That was just the beginning. FEE has helped over 150 victims in their community. In 2016, their trained advocates helped 56 victims. Also, they have worked to raise awareness—to approximately 12,000 community members—so that these exploitations can be prevented. They have been part of multiple rescue efforts that have literally saved lives. That’s no small feat and we honor them—and all the activists around the country—as they continue their heroic work.
Again, human trafficking is not just a Racine problem. Human trafficking is a problem across the country. Since 2007, the National Human Trafficking Hotline has received 145,764 reports of trafficking in America. In 2016, 7,572 cases were reported. Those are just the cases we know about. This is clearly a national problem and it needs national resources.
That’s why Congress has been determined to enact bipartisan legislation to work with local communities to stop these heinous crimes. This year to date, the House has passed not one, not two, but 16 bills to fight human trafficking in the United States. Read about these bills here.
Make no mistake: human trafficking is modern day slavery. We will continue our work to eradicate it in the land of the free and the home of the brave.