For the City Times
WISCONSIN RAPIDS — Human trafficking is a real problem in Wisconsin, according to Lisa Sennholz, founder of Damascus Road.
Sennholz is the featured speaker at one of two free September events on the human trafficking. Human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transporting, obtaining, or maintaining of a person by means of force, fraud, and/or coercion for the purpose of a commercial sex act, or in which the person induced to perform such an act is younger than 18 years of age.
“Human trafficking happens in central Wisconsin, and people need to be aware of it.” said Xee, Hmong Services Specialist at The Family Center, which is sponsoring the events in cooperation with McMillan Memorial Library.
McMillan Memorial Library will show “Nefarious: Merchant of Souls” at 7 p.m. Sept. 13. The movie “gives an in-depth look at the human trafficking industry, showing where slaves are sold (often in developed, affluent countries), where they work, and where they are confined,” according to the movie website.
Sennholz, who founded Damascus Road in 2009, will speak at a public presentation on human trafficking, sponsored by The Wisconsin Rapids Family Center, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 19 at McMillan Memorial Library. The public event follows a 3-hour training for Family Center employees.
Sarah Bedish, community resource officer at the Wausau Police Department will join Sennholz, and share information and statistics regarding human trafficking in central Wisconsin.
The Human Trafficking hotline website states 65 cases of human trafficking cases reported in Wisconsin – and 322 calls regarding the problem – in 2016.
“Human trafficking does not discriminate – it can happen to anyone from anywhere, any background or economic status,” said Xee. “Oftentimes, people assume victims are those in foster care, homeless, or otherwise disadvantaged individuals. However, victims come from all walks of life.”
Knowledgeable about both domestic and international trafficking, Sennholz’s presentation will focus on domestic incidents. She hopes to dispel several myths regarding human trafficking at the free presentation for the public.
“People have an idea what human trafficking looks like,” Sennholz said, adding there are many misconceptions.
While kidnapping is common in international cases – where parents also can sell their young children as payment for incurred debt — United States victims fall prey through a number of situations: They are coerced, lured by property or drugs, or promised affection and attention. Victims suffering low esteem often are prime targets.
“(Predators) play on vulnerabilities,” Sennholz said. “Basically, they groom them into being a victim.”
According to Xee, those in attendance might find their eyes opened to the situation. While Sennholz won’t share some of the darker stories, she plans to be true to the stories of victims.
“It would be an injustice for me to stand up and sugarcoat things – because it is what it is.”
If you go
- 7 p.m. Sept. 13, McMilllan Memorial Library: “Nefarious: Merchant of Souls,” a documentary on the global sex trade. Free.
- 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 19, McMillan Memorial Library: “End Human Trafficking,” with featured speakers Lisa Sennholz of Damascus Road, and Sarah Bedish of Wausau Police Department. Free. Light refreshments. (Q & A from 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.)