by Jeff Pederson
for The Beacon
In an effort to raise awareness and up the ante in implementing prevention tactics, the Sheboygan County Human Trafficking Task Force has taken a highly proactive approach to addressing the many dangers and far-reaching impact of human trafficking in local communities.
Led by Sheboygan Police Department Detective Brandon Kehoe and Lakeshore Regional Child Advocacy Center Forensic Interviewer Samantha Nauman, the Sheboygan County Human Tracking Task Force is engaging in a wide range of activities to bring the issue of human trafficking to the forefront throughout January, which is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
“In honor of National Human Trafficking Awareness Month we have planned a few different awareness and outreach initiatives during the month of January,” Kehoe said. “Our team created a human trafficking awareness video that is available on YouTube and Facebook.
“January 11th was national #WearBlueDay to raise awareness about human trafficking, so our task force participated and posted on our social media on that day,” he said. “We will also be conducting our first Human Trafficking presentation for Sheboygan County Human Services and will be extending training opportunities to every law enforcement jurisdiction to promote throughout the county.”
Nauman and Kehoe each play different, but equally key roles in addressing human trafficking on a daily basis.
“During child abuse investigations, including human trafficking cases, it is my job to gather information from a child in a way that’s non-leading to help investigative teams decide what to do moving forward,” Nauman said. “When I am not conducting interviews, I participate in multidisciplinary team meetings in our community, and that includes the Sheboygan County Human Trafficking Task Force. I work alongside Detective Kehoe as co-chair of the task force.”
“I conduct the human trafficking investigations for the Sheboygan Police Department, as well as other investigative assignments for the department,” Kehoe said. “I am also the co-chair of the Sheboygan County Human Trafficking Task Force. I also do a significant amount of community education to increase Sheboygan’s awareness and prevention.”
While the Sheboygan County Human Trafficking Task Force is not new, Kehoe and Nauman recently took over co-chair roles on the task force with a goal of guiding human trafficking to a brighter spotlight through a variety of education, awareness, investigation, training and response programs.
“The task force has been around for many years,” Kehoe, However, Samantha Nauman and myself took over leadership during in fall 2021. We recognized many years ago that we need to be proactive with awareness, and prevention. It takes an organized community to recognize that this is impacting our area, and it is imperative that the professionals trying to combat this issue, work together to greatly minimize the impact it is having on the greater Sheboygan community.
“We cannot simply focus solely on investigations – we need to focus on education and giving the youth in our community the resources that they need,” he said. “We have so much energy and devotion on this team.”
While acknowledging that the term “human trafficking” can be commonly misunderstood within the community, Kehoe said that the definition of human trafficking covers a lot of ground, but typically includes the same underlying themes.
“It’s important to note that both labor and sex trafficking fall under the term human trafficking,” Kehoe said. “By definition, human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. It includes an element of power and control much like domestic violence.
“A vulnerable person often meets someone who comes in with promises to fix the vulnerabilities and fill the voids,” he said. “Vulnerabilities come in all shapes and sizes including mental health, physical or developmental disabilities, economic hardship, lack of social supports, history of trauma and overall instability. A trafficker uses manipulation to gain trust and control.”
According to Nauman, human traffickers and human trafficking victims are often very difficult to spot by sight. However, a majority of those involved in human trafficking have similar back stories.
“There are two big things to remember about sex trafficking,” Nauman said. “First, traffickers and victims can look like anyone walking among us. Human trafficking reaches all ages, gender identities, socioeconomic status, employment and so on.
“Second, those who survive human trafficking don’t live in a world of choices like you might think,” she said. “Often these vulnerable youth and adults are merely trying to survive and don’t have the support to get out from under the manipulation. At the end of the day, these two points are why awareness, prevention and having a coordinated response to human trafficking is so crucial.”
Nauman says the Sheboygan County Human Trafficking Task Force features the talents of a wide range of dedicated professions in the law enforcement, social services and education fields.
“There are several agencies represented on the task force including Sheboygan Police Department, Sheboygan Sheriff’s Department, Sheboygan County Child Protective Services and Youth Justice, Safe Harbor, Lakeshore Regional Child Advocacy Center, RAYS, Sheboygan County Victim Witness, Sheboygan Area School District, Advocate Aurora, and Probation and Parole,” Nauman said. “Within our task force, we have a designated social media team and training request respondent.
“We look forward to developing a way to create ways to involve allies in the future,” she said.
According to Kehoe, the Sheboygan County Human Trafficking Task Force meets regularly to develop strategies to help combat the highly complex issue of human trafficking, while addressing community outreach and education methods.
“Our task force meets every month to ensure we are communicating and moving towards accomplishing our goals,” Kehoe said. “Since October, we have accomplished our goal of putting together a human trafficking awareness campaign video and establishing a social media platform to reach the community. You can check out our Facebook Page by searching Sheboygan County Human Trafficking Task Force.
“We have also developed a human trafficking awareness presentation and accept training requests through our gmail,” he said. “You can submit a request for training at email@example.com.”
Looking to 2022, Nauman says the Sheboygan County Human Trafficking Task Force will be highly focused on tackling human trafficking from all available angles with a heavy emphasis on prevention strategies.
“As we move through 2022 some of our other goals include implementing case review, facilitating trainings for community agencies, bringing more awareness to labor trafficking, developing a training video for both law enforcement professionals and youth audiences and implementing an initial response team and continued care plan for survivors.” Nauman said. “We put a significant effort into prevention. We have members of our task force that meet every month to address concerns their have with significant juveniles that might be at a higher risk to becoming a trafficking victim.
“A lot of energy and time is devoted to how we can provide resources to those that really need some extra support,” she said.
Nauman says the view Sheboygan County Human Trafficking Task Force awareness campaign video is must-see viewing for anyone wanting to learn more about the devastating affects of human trafficking within a community.
“Our task force has put together an awareness campaign video that can be viewed on YouTube as well as our Sheboygan County Human Trafficking Task Force Facebook page,” Nauman said.
“It’s titled, ‘Sheboygan County Human Trafficking Task Force Community Awareness,’ so you are invited to help raise awareness by viewing and sharing the video.”
To learn more about the Sheboygan County Human Trafficking Task Force, follow the Sheboygan County Human Trafficking Task Force page on Facebook.
To request a human trafficking training session, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.