LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – January 11 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
First Free Church in Onalaska put together an anti-human trafficking group to spread awareness about the issue.
Dave Konkol, the Pastor of Administration and Missions at First Free Church, said he and other members of the anti-human trafficking leadership team spread awareness through documentaries and word of mouth.
“Human trafficking is the other pandemic. We are all used to COVID 19, but this is a global pandemic,” said Konkol.
The U.S. Department of State’s 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report shows that globally, 25 million people are victims of human trafficking.
The U.S. Department of Justice reports that young children, teenagers, and women are the most vulnerable when it comes to being groomed into sex trafficking by predators.
Laura Scovell, a member of First Free Church’s Anti-Human Trafficking Leadership, said even if one person hears their message, it matters.
“A lot of human trafficked survivors are children who are runaways, and women that become groomed,” Scovell said. “Sexual assault survivors have shared stories about how they’ve become intertwined in this lifestyle.”
Investigator Andrew Rosenow with the La Crosse Police Department said social media is one-way predators reach out to groom young children and women.
Rosenow said he tells parents and educators to watch out for children who frequently run away from home or are excessively absent from school. He also mentioned that parents should watch out for a drastic behavior change. For example, children who appear to no longer have an interest in friends or activities they loved to do. Other indicators include new tattoos, along with unexplained extra money.
“Hospital, ER staff, Child Protective Services, we all work together and promote what people should be the lookout for when it comes to human sex trafficking,” Rosenow said. “I always tell the public, if they see something that is odd, report it. I encourage such reports. I would rather know about it, look into it, and find out it was nothing than have it be something serious and it doesn’t get reported.”
Rosenow said there have been human trafficking cases in the La Crosse area.
RESOURCES TO FIGHT HUMAN TRAFFICKING
How Human Trafficking Happens
National Human Trafficking Hotline: Call 1-888-373-7888 (TTY:711) or Text 233733
Polaris Project; Statistics, and the debunking of myths revolving around human trafficking
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children: Direct link to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children – making a CyberTipline report – Phone number: 1-800-THE-LOST (843-5678)
New Horizons Shelter and Outreach Centers: local advocacy center in La Crosse for women and provides resources for human trafficking survivors.