Local minister helps lead fight against human trafficking

Parkside Community Church pastor spearheads organized effort to be discussed in Oct. 30 program
Ozaukee Press Staff

The horror of human trafficking has been in the news more in recent years and organizations have cropped up to help fight the enslavement of people across Wisconsin and beyond.

But not so much in Ozaukee County.

The Rev. Michelle Freeman, pastor of Parkside Community United Church of Christ in Saukville, wants to change that.

A program on the topic, “Human Trafficking in Our Back Yard,” will be presented at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30, at the church, 166 W. Dekora St.

“There’s an organized effort in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington and Sheboygan counties,” Freeman said.

“We want to create something here that is disseminating information. We’re hoping we can start a monthly group and have speakers, seminars and bring up awareness.”

The featured speaker will be Chaplain Krista Hull, founder and director of Redeem and Restore, which offers outreach and care for victims of sex trafficking.

“We have invited as many of the local people as possible and provided information to the school district. We hope as many people as possible show up,” Freeman said.

Freeman, who moved from Houston last year to become pastor at Parkside, said she worked on the issue while in Texas.

“There’s a large port there, and a lot of people are brought across the border for sex trafficking and labor trafficking. For me, it’s always been a personal issue,” she said.

Freeman said she was also inspired by a young woman who spoke at an event in Hartford sponsored by Washington County Anti-Trafficking Advocates.

“She had been trafficked by her uncle and brother-in-law for 19 years, starting when she was a child, right under her mother’s nose,” she said. “It’s just horrific. The girl was still an honor student in school so her mother didn’t think anything was wrong.”

Wisconsin’s location makes it ripe for human trafficking, being near large metropolitan areas like the Twin Cities, Chicago and Detroit and also near the Canadian border, Freeman said, and its agricultural economy makes it attractive to labor trafficking.

“They are not treated very well and can be controlled, especially if they are illegal,” she said.

“There is a higher prevalence of family involvement in trafficking in Wisconsin,” she added. “Parents pimp out their daughters or sons to pay the rent or to buy food.

“In Houston, it was mainly through massage parlors and dance clubs. Here, it’s more families.”

She also said teenagers come into contact with traffickers through pornography on the internet.

“Parents don’t know what is going on, and if they find out, they think they’ll grow out of it,” she said.

Some victims are controlled through drugs or alcohol, where the person in charge controls the victim’s access, she said.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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