Wisconsin's Department of Justice is launching a program to help police and prosecutors track down human traffickers who enslave people in the sex trade or indentured labor.
At the DOJ's annual Public Safety Summit this week about 300 police and prosecutors listened intently to two sex trafficking victims urge them to change their perception of prostitution and begin to target pimps as perpetrators, and to treat prostitutes as victims in need of help. Lisa Tritt-Feleschuck says she was coerced into prostitution by her sex addicted boyfriend. She was eventually arrested and convicted. Now she works with organizations that help former prostitutes rebuild their lives. She's working with the DOJ to pass a bill that would allow such women or men to have their sentences expunged so they can find work, "Thousands of people are unable to find work because of convictions that they don't deserve. They're victims they've been abused they don't need to be re-abused by the system and that's what's happening."
Presenters at the Summit told police and prosecutors that providing treatment services for sex trafficking victims will help them convict pimps and traffickers. Jill Karofsky heads the state's office of Crime Victim Services. She says police need to treat the victims as they would a crime scene that needs to be kept pristine, "Their existence depends on the person who is perpetrating this crime against them. And as soon as you pull them away from that you need to provide everything that the perpetrator as providing otherwise they're never going to be free. "
They're have only been a handful of human trafficking cases prosecuted in the state. Like victims of rape and domestic abuse many are ashamed or afraid of reporting the crime. That's something the DOJ hopes will change with increased awareness.