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Oshkosh unites against trafficking: Annual rally shines light on dark realities

sex trafficking
Posted at 7:31 PM, Jan 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-11 20:33:02-05
  • Oshkosh Community Confronts Human Trafficking Reality on National Awareness Day.
  • Damascus Road Project Partners with Oshkosh Police to Tackle Alarming Trafficking Statistics.
  • Victims are often deceived by traffickers; DHS highlights vulnerability, emphasizing the need for awareness and intervention.

In Oshkosh, the community is confronting the harsh reality of human trafficking on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
Congress, in collaboration with the U.S. Senate, designated this day to raise awareness about the pressing issue. Volunteers from the Damascus Road Project and the Oshkosh Police Department gathered Thursday afternoon in downtown Oshkosh for the 14th annual “Stop the Traffick: Make Some Noise Human Trafficking Awareness Day Rally.”

The Damascus Road Project, a non-profit dedicated to combating sex trafficking, partnered with the Oshkosh Police Department to address the alarming statistics surrounding human trafficking. Terra Koslowski, Education and Engagement Director with Damascus Road describes the common misconception of sex trafficking victims.

“A trafficker, someone who promises them love or a job or a dream that was never fulfilled. It’s just a process of recruitment and manipulation. Playing upon people who are vulnerable and pretending to offer something that they really wanted. In exchange they got trapped into commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking,” she says.

Victims often fall prey to brainwashing, adds Koslowski, making it crucial to recognize the signs and intervene.

“Most people think that a victim is running up to us for help but it’s not that way. Because victims are brainwashed, they’re manipulated. The manipulation builds a bond with them. They (traffickers) prey upon a vulnerability. They (victims) are looking for love, they’re looking for a job, they’re looking for a place to live. Maybe they’re a runaway. They will pretend to give them those things but really later on they’ll say, ‘You need to pay that back now. Look at what I’ve done for you, now you need to pay it back,’ and they are forced into sexual exploitation,” says Koslowski.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, human trafficking involves exploiting individuals through force, fraud, or coercion for commercial sex or forced labor. Children are particularly vulnerable, targeted through social media, mobile devices, and interactive gaming.

Human trafficking generates over $150 billion in illegal profits annually, with an estimated 50 million people living in modern-day slavery worldwide, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO). In the U.S. alone, nearly 17,000 trafficking victims were identified in 2020, ILO says.

Organizations like the Damascus Road Project play a critical role in identifying victims within the community and giving them the tools they need to find a way out.

Marcia Cassiani, who councils human trafficking victims for the Damascus Road Project tells NBC 26 she meets with sex trafficking victims in jail and tries to connect with them before they get released back to their traffickers and connects the victims to local resources to help free them from human trafficking.

She says sometimes she will have a breakthrough moment with a sex trafficking victim who finally realizes someone cares about them and someone is going to help them, and there are people who can help get their lives back on track.

If you or someone you know needs help, contact the human trafficking hotline:

1-888-373-7888, text: Text* 233733