Youth sex trafficking is becoming a growing problem according to the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. Now, the Department has launched a new statewide campaign to raise awareness. It's called 'WI, We Need to Talk.' The idea is to educate people on the warning signs of youth sex trafficking and empowering the public to report it.
In 2017, more than 7,000 cases were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline including cases in Wisconsin. Leaders say it can happen anywhere, even in small towns. Teens, especially those who've been victims of trauma, are most 'at risk.' The sex acts they engage in can be for money, food, shelter, drugs or alcohol, or safety.
"Sex trafficking is becoming a growing problem because of the internet. Everyone has a Smartphone, everyone can get online these days, and so it's very easy for both traffickers to find young people who might be vulnerable but also people who are then purchasing those sexual acts," said Dr. Joy Ippolito, Anti-Human Trafficking Coordinator with the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families.
Experts say some warning signs include teens having a much older boyfriend or girlfriend and victims not wanting to talk about the situation. Also look for victims having new items like phones, clothing or their hair and nails done. Sexually explicit images on their phones can also be a sign of trouble.
Dr. Ippolito recommends monitoring who your children are talking to online and have an open discussion with them about what a healthy relationship looks like.