Sex trafficking in Brown Co. and how to recognize the signs

Generic police lights. (WLUK/Amanda Cartwright)

BROWN COUNTY (WLUK) -- After a recent sex buying sting by the Brown County Sheriff's Office, FOX 11's taking a closer look at sex trafficking and the signs to look for.

The Sexual Assault Center of Family Services of Brown County, defines sex trafficking as "a modern-day form of slavery. It is a form of human trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion. Sex traffickers use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage, and other forms of coercion to compel adults and children to engage in commercial sex acts against their will."

Eye Heart World, an aftercare resource for trafficking victims, says since it started in November 2015, it's helped 55 females and one male victim. All of Eye Heart World referrals are Brown County based.

"We will go in and meet with them and talk with them about what kind of things they have going on that keep them in the life and talk with them about what resources they need to get out of the life," said Dawn Sprang with Eye Heart World.

While the Brown County Sheriff's Office's most recent sting was on sex buyers, Chief Deputy Todd Delain says the department also focuses on victims.

"We have operations that are dealing with human trafficking on a regular basis," he said.

Sgt. Matt Wilson is a human trafficking, evidence tech and on the Wisconsin Human Trafficking Task Force. On Thursday, he gave more details on sex trafficking in Brown County.

"I think it's just the same it has been in the last couple of years. Unfortunately, now that we're focusing on it, I think we're seeing more volume... just in the sense of now that we have somebody focused on it, we're seeing that it's here, more than what we thought it was," said Wilson.

"Traffickers are looking for someone that is incredibly vulnerable," said Shelby Mitchell, victim advocate for Sexual Assault Center of Family Services.

Family Services says from April to June of this year, 37 females and 3 males have been trafficked or exploited in some form in Brown County.

"Traffickers are very meticulous about who they pick and they do everything with a reason behind it," Mitchell said.

The sheriff's office says a lot of sex trafficking victims come from Chicago and Milwaukee.

"However, we do have our victims that are homegrown here and in Brown County and post on the internet and post in magazines every single day," Wilson said.

He also gave more background on some sex trafficking victims.

"Either they're drug dependent, or their dependent on their 'boyfriend' that their either relying on to give them clothes, food, housing," he said.

The sheriff's office says some of the warning signs of sex trafficking victims include, unexplained absences for school, talks about wild parties and sexual behavior, displays of expensive clothing and accessories that wouldn't be normal for that particular individual, less appropriate attire than in the past, and significantly older boyfriends or girlfriends.

"If they appear withdrawn or depressed, or just seem to be distracted. It also includes signs of abuse such as burn marks, cuts bruises, or new tattoos which might be signs of branding," Delain said.

If you or someone you know is a trafficking victim, call your local police department or sheriff's office. The Green Bay Police Department's number is (920) 448-3200. The Brown County Sheriff's Office is (920) 448-4200.

Click here or the play button below to hear from Colleen Stratton, a victim of human trafficking.

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