Police fear some missing, endangered women are human trafficking victims

GREEN BAY, Wis. - Police said on average one person is reported missing and endangered every 21 days in the city of Green Bay, and the bulk of those are women and teenage girls. 

Green Bay Police monitor missing and endangered cases differently and no two cases are alike. 

Officers said most of the time when a woman is labeled missing and endangered it's because they fear she has fallen victim to human sex trafficking. 

Colleen has a heartbreaking story to tell. 

"At the age of 5 I was sexually abused," said Colleen, a human sex trafficking survivor. 

The 35-year-old from Sheboygan struggled coping with the abuse. After ending up on the streets she turned to drugs, alcohol and theft. 

She was desperate and alone. Colleen ended up falling victim to human sex trafficking. 

"He said you can come back to  my place," said Colleen. "I got some people staying there."

Experts said traffickers often prey on women and girls who are down and out. 

These traffickers that pull these women into this situation are master manipulators and masters at figuring out what someone's vulnerability is," said Dawn Spang with Eye Heart World

When police are alerted that a woman is missing under suspicious circumstances, they use the label missing and endangered. 

It's a label they take very seriously. 

"The thing we always worry about most is lethality," said Captain Jeremy Muraski with the Green Bay Police Department. "Is this person going to be abducted? Are they going to be assaulted? Are they going to be killed? Those are the types of things that keep a parent up at night."

Experts said women are most likely to become victims of human trafficking between the ages 14 and 40. 

For missing and endangered cases police said it can start as early as middle school. 

"No woman wakes up at 10 or 12 years old and dreams of sleeping with 10 to 15 men in one night, nobody dreams of that. No woman would willingly put herself in that situation," said Spang. 

"He used to walk around with a gun in his hand and to all of us girls he would go from girl to girl and put the gun to our head and say 'who feels like dying tonight?' He would click it and it would be an empty chamber," said Colleen. "I remember thinking so vividly I'm not even afraid to die anymore." 

There are ways to get out. Organizations like Eye Heart World help victims find a place to stay, get treatment from drugs and alcohol and get the resources they need to recover. 

It was an organization like this that helped save Colleen after an overdose nearly killed her. 

"I remember hearing those voices of these ladies saying someday you'll do something great," said Colleen. "I just remember thinking there's got to be more for me."

She was able to make a full recovery, get married and have children and now she uses her story to help others. 

"There is life after the life," said Colleen. 

Eye Heart World just opened a home for human sex trafficking survivors. It is an 8 bed facility located in Green Bay. 

It is staffed 24/7 and helps women re-enter society. 

Experts said the public can do their part to help. Look for these warning signs: 

  • A woman dressed inappropriately for the weather
  • A woman not looking up or speaking to anyone
  • A man controlling a woman's actions or money

If something doesn't feel right, reach out to police for help. 
 

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