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"Wisconsin, We Need to Talk" campaign raises awareness about youth sex trafficking

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JANESVILLE (WKOW) -- Despite efforts to battle human trafficking in Wisconsin, the problem persists. 

Now, the Wisconsin Department of Children and Family Services is launching a new campaign. 

The "Wisconsin, We Need to Talk" campaign encourages people to discuss the difficult topic of youth sex trafficking by placing posters in public places throughout the state. 

"Human trafficking is a crime that is hidden in plain sight," said Rock County Human Services supervisor Penny Nevicosi. 

Nevicosi says no area is safe from the problem. 

"It has been reported in all 72 of our counties," Nevicosi said. "It is occurring in our rural areas as well as our cities."

Dr. Joy Ippolito is the Wisconsin Anti-Human Trafficking coordinator. She says there's a lot of confusion about youth human sex trafficking. 

"Anytime someone, it's often an adult, is using that young person for a sexual act and promising them something of value, that's sex trafficking," Ippolito said. "That thing of value doesn't have to be money." 

It could be food, shelter, electronics or even drugs. 

Nevicosi and Ippolito are putting up posters to teach people about the "Wisconsin, We Need to Talk" campaign.  The posters will be placed in local business, public walkways and even at the Rock County Fair. 

The pictures on the posters were chosen carefully to illustrate the many faces of youth sex trafficking. 

"A lot of times we talk about girls who are being trafficked but it can certainly happen to boys," Ippolito said. 

She says youth sex trafficking can happen to people of any race or legal status and it's important to know the warning signs.  

"If you have a young person who all of a sudden starts hanging out with a different crowd, or they have a boyfriend or girlfriend but they don't really want to tell you about them, or if they show up with items you know they couldn't afford on their own," Ippolito said. "Clothing, cell phones, other types of electronic devices. We want people to pay attention to those signs."

Ippolito says talking to young people about what healthy relationships look like can help them avoid getting involved with trafficking.  The campaign material is being published in both English and Spanish. 

For more information on the campaign, click here

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