Across the world, men and boys are being asked to help stop human trafficking by signing a pledge offered by the HEMAD program.
HEMAD is short for Human Trafficking Educators Working With Men and Boys To Stand Against the Demand. The program is run locally by the Convergence Resource Center in Milwaukee, a city that ranks sixth in the nation for human trafficking.
“This crime has a devastating impact on youth, women, children who are the main victims of this crime,” interim Milwaukee Police Chief Michael Brunson said Monday.
He was among local and state leaders who came together to take the HEMAD pledge. Organizers hope 60,000 men around the globe will sign it and take a public stand against the commercial sexual exploitation of adults and children.
Brunson said that often when we think of human trafficking, we think solely about people being sold into forced labor or sex. But he said human trafficking is an industry associated with a number of crimes.
“We’ve seen aggravated batteries committed, we’ve seen shootings, even homicides are committed by traffickers to intimidate, to coerce,” he explained.
It’s going to take a multipronged approach to bring an end to human trafficking, Brunson said, and that approach must include educating people about what’s happening, intervening if you see something, holding traffickers accountable, and helping people impacted by the crime.
According to the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office, the average sex trafficker has five victims who see around 30 clients a day, seven days a week. Traffickers use social media to recruit and advertise.
Democratic state Rep. Jason Fields said that the victims are typically from the most vulnerable populations, and while the problem is most severe in Milwaukee, human trafficking happens across the state — including in suburban and rural areas.
“Runaways, homeless youth, LGBTQ youth, children in our foster system, victims of pervious abuse, youth of color and children with disabilities,” he explained.
Around 300,000 children are at risk of being trafficked every year in the U.S., according to Fields. He compared that to the combined population of Kenosha, Racine, Waukesha and Wauwatosa.
Fields continued, "Or Green Bay, Eau Claire, Sheboygan, Oak Creek, Mequon and Germantown. 300,000, that’s a lot of kids."
A study by the Medical College of Wisconsin found that around 55% of people trafficked in the state were under the age of 18 when they first became victims of the crime.