Oh, the People that You Meet…

The Traffick Stop
by Just Add Kids founder,
Paula Herrmann

…When you’re walking down the street. They’re the people that you meet each day.

Well, we certainly hope not! But, maybe so. I’m talking about those engaged in human sex trafficking.

You do remember that song from Sesame Street, right?

That was from a day when my parents felt safe letting us kids run around in the neighborhood for hours on end. Riding our bikes for miles to get to our friends. That surely isn’t the picture that’s painted these days. Is it. Read more…

I am a seeker and processor of information. A lot of things have crossed my path, more so since starting and running Just Add Kids.  It’s my job and my duty to you. Anything baby, kid, family, mom….my eyes and ears perk up.

So why when I first started seeing the phrase “human trafficking” show up, I’d just pass it by? Quite honestly, I never thought that modern day slavery was part of the culture of the United States.  I have a heart for international concerns, really, I just have to pick and choose as my time is limited, right?

Just a few months ago, I had a guest blogger, Karri Hemmig, founder of the Racine Coalition Against Human Trafficking, write about the subject in advance of a seminar that focused on internet safety, sexual predators, and human trafficking in Southeast Wisconsin. [See: Cha, cha, cha, changes. “Keeping Kids Safe In A World Of Rapidly Changing Technology”] Interesting, yes! Yet, I knew about internet safety. I’d seen Special Agent Eric Szatowski at a previous event. In fact, I wrote a series of blogs on the insight and knowledge I gained. [See: Jeepers Creepers! Creeper Alert! Proceed with Caution]. If I am to dialog about/monitor/keep tabs on/whatever/everything with my kids’ activity out there in game land, social media, the texting nation…we’ll steer clear of the creeps. Mom fail in that regard. Aware of the dangers? Of course! Are my kids in the harm’s way. Um, I think so.

So enter the promotion of the movie “8 Days” brought to our community again by Karri’s organization, Racine Police Department, and SC Johnson. Again, this subject of human sex trafficking passes through my newsfeed on Facebook. I read the flier. It peaks my interest…..”1 in 3 children on the street will be lured into prostitution within the first 48 hours of running away from home.” Sad statistic, yet, my kids aren’t the runaway kind, and most of my friends and family members, not high risk for that. Compassionate, yes! I check out the movie clip and start digging into some of 8 Days’ Facebook posts. I finally turn the corner from aware, to “Oh My God”.

I read the transcript from an interview w/Jaco Booyens, director of the film that was posted on their wall on February 1st. Things that stuck out to me:

“…it starts with something as little as soft pornography, that’s where it starts.” “It’s about 80% men” “To buy drugs, nobody starts with heroin. They start somewhere else and they end up there right. So, this lust for something that can’t be filled and it ends up with our children being in motel rooms.” “You drive the streets and you pull into a little market or you’re going for — at a nail spa, there’s things happening in the back.”

Then I find myself reading more… “A shocking statistic, and one of many stats that will make you cringe, like the average age of entry into the sex trade is 12 years old and victims may be forced to have sex 20 to 48 times a day.” (Ref: http://tinyurl.com/nswudrt)

Runaway or not, these kids surely didn’t bargain for this.

Next, enter DeAnn. I met her back when I just launched Just Add Kids. She stumbled upon a young victim of human sex trafficking right in her neighborhood. And she doesn’t live in the inner city, my friend. You might be horrified to find out what may be happening right in your neighborhood. [See video here: Activist discusses suburban sex trafficking]

Fast-forward to last night….news outlets reporting that two young girls, ages 13 and 16, from Milwaukee are rescued by the Racine County Human Trafficking Task Force and The Internet Crimes Against Children Unit. Where? Yorkville. It’s real. It’s here.

Getting back to this past weekend’s event, “8 Days”. Did I go? Yes. Impactful. Once again, “O.M.G.” (and I don’t say that lightly). After decompressing and processing, I’ve become energized to join in the campaign against human sex trafficking.

My first step is here. Informing you once again. Maybe this blog post is what incites your desire to become aware, educate yourself and your loved ones, be vigilant, make a difference. Everyone has their calling. This is just another social challenge in my community that I cannot turn my back on. Too many lives. Even just one life that I can positively impact is worth the little effort on my behalf.

Interested in learning more? There is so much to tap into, whether it be research on the internet, or conferences to attend. Find your place in this world of modern day slavery. If at the very least, keep your eyes open and report anything that instinctually just ain’t right.

Here are a few upcoming conferences in our area:

“Restorative Justice and Human Trafficking – from Wisconsin to the World” Conference at Marquette University, Milwaukee
Thursday, March 19 4:30 p.m. — Keynote: Human Trafficking: Listening to Survivors, Fighting for Justice
Martina Vandenberg, President, The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center (FREE, must register)
Friday, March 20 – Conference (SOLD OUT)

“Hope Run Kenosha Human Trafficking Forum” at Journey Church, Kenosha
day, March 20 1-4 p.m. — Professional: Law Enforcement, City Officials, Social Services, Educators, Healthercare Providers, EMT, Hospitality Industry, Youth Organizations
Friday, March 20 7-9 p.m. — Community: Everyone is welcome. Recommended for ages 10+
Saturday, March 21 9a.m.-noon — Faith-Based: Church Leaders and Faith-based Organizations
(Forum Tracks are FREE to attend, registration requested for Professional & Faith-Based Tracks)

Racine Coalition Against Human Trafficking
Hope Run Kenosha







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