Founder of sex trafficking advocacy group speaks on campus

Story by Jessie Tremmel, Staff Writer

Sex trafficking is a $32 billion industry worldwide. A slave of sex trafficking can be bought for $40 and can earn a trafficker $600,000 in one year.

Fierce Freedom, a local non-profit, works to educate and equip individuals, organizations and communities abolish of human trafficking. Jenny Almquist, the founder of Fierce Freedom, spoke to a group of about 30 students, professors and community members Tuesday night in the Ojibwe Room of the Davies Center on the UW-Eau Claire campus.

Almquist was at a presentation about sex trafficking when the issue became apparent.

“I could not believe that in this day and age that there are more slaves on the planet than there ever has been,” Almquist said. “All of a sudden I thought, this is my watch, this is my watch on the planet, this is my turn and this is not okay with me. I don’t think it’s okay with you guys either.”

Sex trafficking is the force, coercion and manipulation of someone for another person’s gain, Almquist said.

She addressed some myths surrounding sex trafficking, presented some statistics and suggested some warning signs. One myth is prostitutes are different from sex trafficking. The truth is prostitutes can be victims of sex trafficking by manipulation, Almquist said.

There are some warning signs someone is caught in sex trafficking, such as visible bruises, fear or shame, not having control of their own lives and having someone else who speaks on their behalf.

There are a few prominent issues in the Eau Claire area that Almquist focused on. The first is older men befriending younger girls, and the second is high school boys selling their girlfriend’s services to their friends. In the first situation, the girls are often starved for affection and the older man can take advantage of that vulnerability.

There are some organizations on campus that focus on sex trafficking issues, such as the International Justice Mission and the Human Trafficking Abolitionists.

Megan Overstreet, who is part of International Justice Mission and a junior psychology major, said she is very passionate about issues surrounding sex trafficking and said she hopes to work with the issue after graduation.

“My dream job is to be a PTSD trauma therapist for survivors of human trafficking, and I don’t even know how to confront something like that,” Overstreet said. “Everything in their brain has been hard-wired for that and that’s daunting.”

She said even though the task is intimidating, we should still try to tackle it. Coming from a suburb of Milwaukee, Overstreet heard about sex trafficking happening in that area, but hadn’t connected that this could also be happening in her hometown. She said she is now questioning the prevalence of sex trafficking in Eau Claire.

“It is a full-fledged business,” Overstreet said. “It could involve the scary man on the street but could also involve “business men, a professor, we don’t know. And that’s what is scary about it.”