Human Trafficking has been reported in all 72 Wisconsin counties. It is not, as commonly thought, limited to larger cities, nor does it involve only people from “elsewhere”. It is a form of human exploitation that affects people of differing socioeconomic, religious, and racial backgrounds, and involves children as well as adults. The only characteristic shared by all those who are trafficked is their loss of freedom.
In this country, 80% or more of human trafficking is sex trafficking defined as a commercial sex act induced by force, fraud, or coercion. Because of the “repeated sale” of the person being exploited, sex trafficking is the fastest growing illegal activity next to the sale of drugs. And as reported by the Capitol Times in December of 2017 (see Resources), sex trafficking in Dane County is pervasive.
SlaveFree Madison (SFM) is a Dane County, community-based coalition. In addition to promoting awareness of Human Trafficking, SFM advocates for cooperative responses at the local level and for legislation at the state and national levels that advances an agenda aimed at both eliminating trafficking and supporting those who have been exploited. To achieve its mission, SFM offers educational presentations to Dane County organizations wishing to better understand the issue of human trafficking, lobbies state representatives, and brings together those with expertise and those wishing to learn more about the issue. SlaveFree Madison also collaborates with others interested in promoting Human Trafficking awareness at the local, state, and national levels as well as the challenges faced by individuals from countries around the globe.
Committees within SFM work on various aspects of our mission, the Faith-Response Committee is one such entity. Although not itself a faith-based organization, Slave Free Madison sees faith communities as a critical stakeholder in the solution to the problem of human trafficking. The Faith Response Committee engages in the fight against human trafficking as an expression of members’ religious commitment to equality, justice and freedom. It both represents and draws support from various denominations and faith perspectives to collectively provide advocacy, education, and a means of action to end global and local human trafficking. Our programs generally aim to raise awareness of human trafficking not only within local congregations but also in the public at large, both youth and adults. Additional members are welcome to join the committee or provide other support.
SlaveFree Madison History
SlaveFree Madison (SFM) grew out of a priority-setting luncheon convened by the Zonta Club of Madison in spring 2008, and attended by other Madison-area agencies who share a common concern for human trafficking. The group reached the consensus that building community awareness of the human trafficking issue was a priority, and that a community-based service organization like Zonta was well-suited to address this goal. Ultimately, Zonta decided that an anti-human trafficking group would be stronger if it involved a broader spectrum of people from across Dane County.
Zonta Club of Madison spent six months honing their focus which resulted in an informational survey being sent to Madison-area organizations and selected individuals. The survey indicated an average awareness of human trafficking as an issue but limited awareness of human trafficking in the Madison-area. Respondents were also invited to the initial meeting of a community coalition to build public awareness of human trafficking.
The group that became SlaveFree Madison convened for the first time on April 27, 2009 comprised of approximately 20 individuals from across the Madison area. It has since broadened its mission to include advocating for cooperative community responses to address local human trafficking. To achieve its mission, SlaveFree Madison offers educational presentations to Dane County organizations wishing to better understand the issue of human trafficking and, if desired, to explore appropriate ways to address the issue. SlaveFree Madison is also seeking further collaboration with City of Madison and Dane County agencies that can contribute to a comprehensive and cooperative response to human trafficking in Dane County.
While SlaveFree Madison has an identity, membership, and plan-of-work of its own, it continues to retain its affiliation with Zonta Club of Madison.