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Milwaukee woman's mission to stop human trafficking

Unfortunately, Milwaukee's history with human trafficking is dark and deep of stories of young girls - but also boys being purchased for money or gifts for the purpose of sex or labor trafficking.
Posted at 6:19 PM, Jan 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-11 19:19:30-05

MILWAUKEE — Walk in Chandra Cooper's shoes for just a few minutes and you'll quickly hear her passion and energy to stop the scourge known as human trafficking.

"I just took a passion towards it and saying, you know, this is what I want to do and my purpose," said Cooper. "I want to be able to educate, I want to be able to honor those victims and survivors and I want to be a protector as well."

Cooper started Grateful Girls at 26th and Lisbon to be a resource and an advocate in this troubling, harmful space.

"Usually, we see a lot of girls 12 to 13 years old," Cooper said.

Unfortunately, Milwaukee's history with human trafficking is dark and deep of stories of young girls - but also boys being purchased for money or gifts for the purpose of sex or labor trafficking.

But it's not just Milwaukee or Wisconsin.

"It's a nationwide problem, but right here in Wisconsin, in all 72 counties, there have been identified cases of human trafficking," said Cooper. "So that just tells you it doesn't matter if you're from a rural area or the city. It's rampant."

Grateful Girls is an outreach center that can help anyone who has been caught up in human trafficking and Cooper says they have helped hundreds of young girls since opening in 2014.

Cooper knows the work is never done but days like today, which bring attention to the human trafficking problem - are a big step forward.

"We need to recognize the victims, survivors, and the advocates who do this work, It's so important that we understand that on this day," Cooper said. "We need to make sure that we know what human trafficking is. We know what it looks like. We know what it smells like, basically, and we know how to identify it".

Trafficking is not just a Wisconsin problem. It touches neighborhoods near and far.

An estimated 300,000 children nationwide become victims of sex trafficking every year. Most of them come from what could be described as a quote 'normal' home and go to school regularly.

Wisconsin is in the middle of the pack compared to our Midwest neighbors.

166 victims were identified in the Badger state in 2020-2021. According to the National Human Trafficking hotline, more victims were identified across the border in Michigan followed by Illinois.

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