Sex trafficking is on the rise in Milwaukee. Poverty is one reason; so is the lack of strong men in some neighborhoods. A report released earlier this month found that 77 children had been sexually exploited in Milwaukee over the past two years. With sex crimes being among the most under-reported, the actual number is likely much higher.
After Tameika Lewis’ oldest daughter was trapped by sex traffickers for nearly a year in 2008, she relived the terror all over again just over a year ago when her second daughter fell victim. Lewis feels that too many families who have suffered from sex trafficking have been silent. Some put more blame on the parent and the child instead of where it belongs, on the pimps and johns. She said she did everything within her power to protect her daughters.
Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said some members of law enforcement still don’t get it; they treat those in the sex trade like second-class citizens. Assistant District Attorney Sara Lewis said that the sex trade culture has been hard to change, and officials have come across generational pimps — sons who follow in their fathers’ footsteps in abusing women.
While there are federal and state laws against sex trafficking, mandatory minimum sentences for those who sell and those who buy could add more teeth to the state laws. Additional funding needs to go into studying trafficking and training law enforcement to use existing laws effectively. Wisconsin should follow the lead of other states by increasing the age for children in foster care from 19 to 21. Too many youths age out of foster care unable to provide for themselves, making them easy targets for flesh peddlers. Without a job, support system and no place to live, the one thing left to sell is your body.
Her daughter only told Lewis about some of the trauma she endured, which included beatings. She isn’t ready just yet to reveal everything. “She will never be the same, and neither will I,” Lewis said.
Sex trafficking would not exist if there were not a market for sexually exploited individuals. Johns are just as guilty as the pimps, who profit off the backs of the young girls and women. Strong men can help to end this bad sequel.
Learn more at James E. Causey’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Online article: The terrible toll of sex trafficking.