Marquette Wire

Milwaukee pastor creates aftercare center for sex trafficking victims

The+center+aims+to+provide+a+variety+of+resources%2C+most+importantly+support%2C+to+help+victims+rehabilitate.+Photo+by+Maryam+Tunio%2Fmaryam.tunio%40marquette.edu
The center aims to provide a variety of resources, most importantly support, to help victims rehabilitate. Photo by Maryam Tunio/maryam.tunio@marquette.edu

The center aims to provide a variety of resources, most importantly support, to help victims rehabilitate. Photo by Maryam Tunio/maryam.tunio@marquette.edu

Photo by Maryam Tunio

Photo by Maryam Tunio

The center aims to provide a variety of resources, most importantly support, to help victims rehabilitate. Photo by Maryam Tunio/maryam.tunio@marquette.edu

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Girls as young as 13 are being trafficked for sex not far from where Milwaukee residents work and live.

Pastor Jason Butler of Transformation City Church, located at 6725 W. Burleigh St., addressed this issue by creating an aftercare center for underage female victims.

Seventy nine percent of human trafficking cases reported in Wisconsin occur in Milwaukee, according to the Human Trafficking Task Force of Greater Milwaukee.

Butler first learned sex trafficking was an issue in Milwaukee by working with teen groups at his church.

“We began to hear stories,” Butler said. “I heard things like, ‘You could go to Lisbon Avenue and have sex with a teenager for $5.’”

After continuously hearing these stories, Butler and members of Transformation City knew they must act.

“As a church, we knew we needed to do something, but we didn’t know what,” Butler said.

Butler spent one year working with service providers, lawyers and law enforcement to assess the magnitude of the problem. He then founded Exploit No More, an organization that advocates for victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

The sex buyer is often not the only one arrested. The victim is detained for protection from her pimp or exploiter. After going through the traumatic experience of being trafficked she can be re-victimized again when arrested.

This is why Butler decided to create an aftercare center. To provide protection but not put an arrest on the victim’s record.

“We need a place for the girls to go,” Butler said. “When they get out of that situation, they need somewhere.”

ENM has worked with medical professionals and hotels to make them aware of the issue. The group taught medical care providers and hotel staff how to spot suspicious behavior and whom to report it.

“We can’t eliminate it, but we can make it harder,” Butler said. “We can make people aware they’re going to get caught.”

 

ENM also spoke with organizations across the country to learn how to best run its facilities. EMN learned there are few aftercare centers for underage girls. Facilities for minors are often costly due to state requirements and licensing.

“You have to jump through a lot of hurdles and raise a lot of money, but we got to do it,” Butler said.

Butler and ENM are fundraising for the center and on track to have it finished by the end of this year.

The aftercare center will provide therapy, clinical care, education and job training. The girls can stay at the center for up to 18 months. There will be a 24/7 all-female staff to ensure the girls are not left alone.

John Grych, chair of Marquette Psychology Department, said trust is an issue for victims.

“People who have been sexually abused often have difficulty trusting others and can suffer from sexual dysfunctions,” Grych said in an email. “Many fall into a repeated pattern of victimization at the hands of their partners.”

To help girls avoid relapsing, transitional support is a key service the center provides. For an effective transition, a girl must return to a family that understands her situation.

If a girl does not have a family to return to, she will be paired with an adoptive or foster family that has been specially trained to handle her situation. Six months prior to graduating from EMN, girls will be paired with a female mentor to help ease the transition.

Butler is looking at different locations for the care center. He said he would like a quiet location in a neighborhood with police knowledge of the issue and political support. South Milwaukee and West Allis are two of the locations being considered.

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About the Writer
Rebecca Carballo, Managing Editor of the Marquette Tribune

Rebecca is the managing editor of the Marquette Tribune as well as a senior majoring in journalism with a minor in political science. She has interned with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service and WISN 12.

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