GLIIHC Awarded Department of Justice Funding to Address Human Trafficking for Urban AI/AN’s in Milwaukee

In October 2019, the Department of Justice Office of Victims of Crime (OVC) awarded three-year funding to the Gerald L. Ignace Indian Health Center (GLIIHC) Behavioral Health Department’s Circles of Strength (COS) Program for Project Beacon Milwaukee (MKE).

“We are really excited about how this funding that will allow us to expand our clinical and community-based services, as well as our local partnerships for American Indian/Alaskan Native (AI/AN) individuals who currently are being trafficked or are at risk.”

Deborah Black-Ignace,

Deputy Director, Licensed Professional Counselor, GLIIHC's Behavioral Health Department

A recent report entitled “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls: A Snapshot of Data from 71 Urban Cities in the United States,” documented that Wisconsin had six (6) recent cases of AI/AN women recorded as missing or murdered, and three of these women were documented as missing or murdered in Milwaukee (Urban Indian Health Institute, 2018). With 71% of AI/AN people now residing in urban areas, according to the report, the figures published greatly underestimate the real number of missing and murdered Indigenous women who have likely gone murdered or missing, usually at the hands of someone they know.

To respond to this threat, Project Beacon MKE will help GLIIHC build a local capacity to address sex trafficking in AI/AN communities in Milwaukee and surrounding communities through a combination of OVC technical training and assistance, guidance from a Subject Matter Expert on sex trafficking issues in indigenous communities, and through the allocation of existing staff time and a new Victim Advocate and Case Manager position.

“This funding will allow us to drill down on key tasks like more thorough screening for the identification of victims at the Ignace Indian Health Center and at other local agencies; to better track the number and the services needed by AI/AN sex trafficking victims; and to offer a number of internal and external trainings that will bring subject matter expertise and best practices to Wisconsin.”

Deborah Black-Ignace,

, Deputy Director, Licensed Professional Counselor, GLIIHC's Behavioral Health Department

Milwaukee is undergoing a surge in the number of human sex trafficking cases. The average age of children being sold for sex is 13, according to government reports.

Also known as modern-day slavery, human trafficking inflicts horrific trauma on women, males and children. The traumatization includes commercial sex, forced labor and other types of exploitation.

In fact, the signs can be subtle and have been documented in each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, with the majority being from Milwaukee.

GLIIHC staff urge families to learn more about human trafficking and what they can do to prevent the heinous crime against our people.

Pease note: if you are in immediate danger, call 911.

Article by Anne Egan-Waukau, Media/Public Relations Consultant