Dane Co. officials raise awareness about sex trafficking - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Dane Co. officials raise awareness about sex trafficking

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, joined by local law enforcement and youth advocates, announced steps the county is taking to help raise awareness of human sex trafficking in Dane County through coordinated education efforts and resources for homeless and runaway youth.

Efforts on the national and state level to address trafficking have helped bring about awareness of sexually exploited youth. The county will support the ongoing work on behalf of youth advocates in Dane County who have been working locally to support victims and eliminate the practice.

"We want victims to know that our community is sympathetic, aware, and stands ready to help," said Parisi. "And we want to send a clear message to traffickers that they will be punished for their crimes if they try to operate in our county."

Supervisor Melissa Sargent included $30,000 in the 2013 budget Parisi signed to replace recently eliminated federal funds that support outreach services to homeless and runaway youth - a group that youth advocates cautioned are susceptible to trafficking. Dane County also provides $32,000 annually for Briarpatch services that work with these youth.

According to information from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, as many as 2.8 million children runaway each year - and one-third become entangled in underground prostitution or pornography within 48 hours of living on the streets.

"As awareness of victims of sex trafficking grows we look forward to the growing commitment of energy and resources from the County Executive to work with these vulnerable children," said Jen Burkel of Youth Services of Southern Wisconsin, Briarpatch.

Parisi's budget also includes resources for Project Respect, a local advocacy group that provides support and crisis intervention for women with a history of prostitution and sexual exploitation.

"Failure to identify minor victims of sex trafficking runs the risk of victims being mislabeled as criminals, or criminalization of the victim as a last resort due to limited service options. When these victims do surface, they may be found to be too close to aging out of the child protection system and too young and inappropriate for adult services," said Jan Miyasaki, Director of Project Respect. "However, as awareness of human trafficking has increased in recent years, there is better understanding of how minors are vulnerable to the commercial sex industry by manipulative and abusive adults."

To increase communication and coordination throughout county services, Parisi's administration has also asked the Dane County Commission on Sensitive Crimes to assess existing resources and how they can be best used to identify and help sexually exploited youth.

Parisi has also asked human services staff to participate in a community trafficking education summit planned for April to bring together local law enforcement, health care professionals, advocates, and human service professionals to develop a coordinated trafficking response plan.

"I am pleased to join the County Executive in his commitment to these critical cases along with law enforcement the Department of Justice, and the US Attorney's Office. I look forward to continued work with partner agencies and community organizations on intervention and prevention efforts geared towards ending human trafficking," said Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne. "The existence of human trafficking is a complex crisis that will require continued examination of issues such as poverty, parenting, addiction, and criminal thinking. We intend to hold human traffickers fully accountable and offer victims compassionate service. It is also imperative we continue to work on collaborative community interventions."

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Dane County officials will join together Thursday in an effort to raise awareness about human sex trafficking.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi will be joined by local law enforcement and advocates. Awareness of sexual exploitation of children has increased through national and state efforts to bring additional resources to help victims of trafficking, eliminate the practice and bring their attackers to justice.

 

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