DODGE COUNTY — A sex trafficking survivor bravely shares her story after bringing down a prolific human trafficker in the Milwaukee area. Prosecutors say the Dodge County man raped, tortured and beat women and girls for nearly 30 years.
Tiffany, who is not giving her last name, was one of the star witnesses for a federal prosecution. Not a place she would have ever imaged she would be when she first met Christopher Childs.
Tiffany grew up around Hartford in Dodge County. The certified nursing assistant loved to travel with her family. They would often go to Nebraska football games on a long weekend. That changed when she met Childs at 24-year-old. Right after her father passed away.
"That was a softspot for me. It had just recently happened,” said Tiffany.
Childs was known by her family. They considered him a friend. He lived just down the street from them.
"Four houses down,” said Tiffany.
After her father died Childs offered to get her a job at the Hardware Store, a gentleman’s club in Dodge County. He said she could make some extra money on the weekends to help her family.
“They make it seem like this wonderful elaborate lifestyle. It was after my dad died and he was like, ‘I will make sure your family is taken care of,’” said Tiffany.
But what Tiffany did not realize at the time, Childs was already grooming her for his human trafficking plan. Childs forced her to quit her job as a CNA and work for him full time.
“At the beginning, you aren't getting beaten, at the beginning you aren't getting physically forced to do anything it's the mental manipulation,” said Tiffany.
In court, people testified on Childs’ behalf that he was a loving family man. They testified Childs drove them to appointments, acted as a father figure and would never hurt anyone.
A judge called Childs a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, showing one side to his family and another to his victims.
On October 21, a federal judge accepted Childs guilty plea and sentenced him on human trafficking. He admitted he sold, raped and tortured women. Prosecutors say he trafficked nearly a dozen women including Tiffany.
“They do have personalities that can groom their victims and build a sense of rapport and loyalty. So they may have a level of charisma that can attract victims. Then slowly over time switch that relationship so they are exploiting them,” said Matthew Krueger, U.S. Attorney.
Tiffany said Childs controlled everything in her life. He decided what she ate, when she slept and when she worked. Childs would keep tabs on her and other women at the clubs he sent them to, even if he wasn’t there.
"He would call the club owners and the managers to make sure we weren't taking too many breaks,” said Tiffany.
Prosecutors noted club owners, managers and bartenders would message or call Childs about what the women he trafficked were doing. And disobeying Childs came with severe and horrific consequences.
“I was sodomized with a hot curling iron. On another occasion I was locked in a bathroom,” said Tiffany. “He strangled women to the point of passing out.”
Other victims testified they were beaten, forced to sleep outside in the snow, locked in small room ad often branded with Childs’ name. The women also testified and reported to the courts horrific sexual torture including times when Childs’ would have a friend rape and beat someone who disobeyed him.
Court records show Childs preyed upon women and girls in difficult life circumstances including a woman living in a domestic violence shelter and a homeless child.
“Through vulnerability, that is the imperative word. Individuals are brought in through force, through fraud, through cohesion,” said Dana World-Patterson who founded Foundations for Freedom.
World-Patterson heads up the Human Trafficking Task Force of Greater Milwaukee. According to the FBI, Wisconsin ranks fifth in the nation for human trafficking offenses. And it is big business.
“We are talking a 150-billion-dollar industry. So it's a huge industry and many people are benefitting,” said World-Patterson.
Of the 106 cases reported in Wisconsin last year, only about half ended up in an arrest. It is something the U.S. Attorney in Milwaukee wants to change.
“It has been a top priority of my office and the Justice Department to focus on human trafficking cases. In fact, next month in December there will be a significant sentence for someone who is a human trafficker,” said Krueger. “But these are difficult cases to put together. Principally because victims of human trafficking are scared to disclose what’s been happening.”
Tiffany made the brave decision to leave Childs in 2017 and report him to police. This month he was sentenced to 27 years in federal prison. It is the second-longest human trafficking sentence in the Eastern District of Wisconsin.
"I wasn't the first person he hurt but I made damn sure I was the last,” said Tiffany.
Krueger said they have prosecutors the people connected to Childs’ human trafficking activities. The owner and two former employees of the Hardware Store, the gentleman’s club, have been charged federally. They are now awaiting their sentences.
If you or someone you know need help, they can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1 (888) 373-7888, or text "HELP" to 233733.