Beyond Behaviors: Understanding and Advocating for Sex Trafficking Awareness

Jun 6, 2019 | by Kristal Knudtson

“We will never arrest our way out of the sex trafficking problem. We need the community to be aware, and we need people to understand that these are not boys and girls that woke up one day and said, ‘I want to grow up to be a prostitute.’  These are people that are victimized, that have been victimized/abused early in their life and are sucked into the sex trafficking world by a predator.  They continue to be abused, addicted to drugs, and killed with absolutely no regard.”

These are the words from Sergeant Adam Nagel of the Appleton Police Department.  Sgt. Nagel graduated from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice. He was a downtown patrol officer for five years and worked as a School Resource Officer for Appleton West High School for 4 years. He is currently a sensitive crimes investigator at the Appleton Police Department and is part of Wisconsin Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Sgt. Nagel is also part of the Outagamie domestic minor sex trafficking task force and was involved in the Wisconsin Sex Trafficking task force that developed screening tools for at-risk children that could be in the world of sex trafficking.

Can you tell us about sex trafficking and who is being trafficked?

“Sex trafficking is prevalent across the world. It’s big in Milwaukee, Chicago and our community of the Fox Valley.  The market is in high demand and there is a lot of money involved.

Anyone could be a victim.  Men, women, and kids are trafficked every day in the area. Those that are at the highest risk are at-risk juveniles such as kids who run away, involved with juvenile delinquency, addicted to drugs and alcohol, homeless, LGBQT community, financial issues, and lack of basic needs being met.

We do not deal with people that are being picked up off the street.  The victims are manipulated and they are groomed to the point where they become sex trafficked.”

How long does it take for a predator to manipulate their victims?

“Manipulation can take days to months. A victim could be manipulated for years before being trafficked.

Why don’t the victims who are sex trafficked run away?

“Threats, drug addiction, and control over their family. The predators threaten that they will kill them or their family.  Through talking with some victims, they usually don’t care if they get killed, it’s when the predators say they will kill their son, mother or someone close to them. 

Some victims think they are in love with their predators due to manipulation. This may be the first person in their life where they were loved; maybe they were in a foster care system and even though they didn’t have a home, it’s still better for them.

Some victims don’t want out because they haven’t had a bad situation happen to them yet, such as being beaten or sexually assaulted. To some of them it might be better than what they had before.  They may even receive fancy clothes, jewelry and food, and the trafficker requires them to have sex in return for these items. ”

Do you see a certain age group that they try to manipulate?

“Minor sex trafficking is girls/goys from the ages of 12-15 years old.  We had a case in Appleton where we there was a 12 and 14 year old involved.  The younger they are, the more vulnerable they are and easy to manipulate.”

When the boys and girls are found, what does the Appleton Police Department do to help?

“When we arrest victims for this, our goal is to get them help. We guide them.  We get them to a hospital for medical attention, work with strong advocacy groups (Eye Heart World) and non-profits in the area (Salvation Army) to help get them a place to live, food to eat and get the proper life skills.”

How can we help victim’s find jobs afterwards?

“It’s hard when sex trafficking is all that they know how to do.  We had one case where the victim had been doing this since age 14 and is now 30. It was all that she knew. We can help these victims find jobs through some of our advocacy groups and other resources in the Fox Valley.

What are some red flags and victims?

“It can be tough to spot the victims because they blend in. You might see young girls with older men, which seems suspicious. You might see lots of men going in and out of a room at a hotel.  You may find someone who doesn’t know where they are because they got dropped off in a different city. You also might see a women or man that is wearing summer clothes during winter, for example.”

What should a person do if they think they notice suspicious sex trafficking behavior?

“They should either call the Appleton Police Department, or

If you suspect sex trafficking, do NOT approach the victim or the trafficker.”

Is there an average demographic for a buyer?

“All walks of life: Professionals, blue collar workers, vacationers, no race creed or color is left out.”

Do you do presentations of sex trafficking awareness in the community?

“Yes. I speak with 5-Stones,, on sex trafficking prevention to educate communities.”

What do you want the community to know about sex trafficking?

“They need to be aware that there is a problem in Appleton and all over the world. If you know or suspect something, step up and call.

Take care of our kids in our community. Kids are the most vulnerable people in our community, and we need to make sure that no kid is left behind because we think they are a “bad kid”.  When we take better care of our own children, it will start to end.”

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