Human Trafficking: You Have Probably Seen the Signs

by: Shenandoah LaRock and Jon Watts

“Earn $500 dollars a week!”

“Make money while traveling! Call 881-235-0978”

These signs are usually yellow or white poster boards that look like something your mom made for your yard sale. Wouldn’t it be nice to make five hundred dollars a week or get paid for not doing anything at all? There is no other description except the money and the number. Sometimes there will be a first name, someone to ask for when you call. Often times they use a name that implies that they are a woman because generally, people are more likely to trust women instead of men.

This is how sex traffickers lure you in.

If you call this number it may seem legitimate. They will probably try to convince you to meet them somewhere.

Do not. This is an elaborate ploy for sex traffickers to abduct their victims. A common misconception about sex trafficking is that it’s only a problem in major U.S. cities. The dark reality is that sex trafficking is everywhere. Iyanna Jame’s essay, “Human Trafficking: ‘Close to home” suggests that “The young female students without an adequate home, no close family, far friends, and a long distance support system make an ideal target for sex slavery.” I have seen these signs on UWM’s campus. Signs promising thousands of dollars for a paid internship signs offering jobs that pay hundreds a week. These are all sick ploys designed to attract the poor college student. If you see these signs, tear them down if you can. Let your friends and family members know not to fall into the trap.  Remember that if it’s too good to be true, it probably is a scam.

College students aren’t the only targets for sex traffickers. Unlucky 13 (2012) is an organization through the Human Trafficking Task Force of Greater Milwaukee. Unlucky 13 estimates that 13 years old is the average age of those trafficked in the United States. Ninety-two percent of the trafficked youth identified as women, suggesting that human trafficking is primarily a form of gender-based violence. In Wisconsin, seventy-nine percent of all human trafficking cases reported occurs in the city of Milwaukee. According to Unlucky 13, seventy-eight percent of trafficked youth identify as black and African American. This shows that human trafficking in Milwaukee is as much of a racial issue as it is gender.

If you suspect that someone you know may be a victim of sex trafficking, seek advocacy. There are numerous organizations in Milwaukee that are dedicated to the aid and protection of survivors. The Sojourner Family Peace Center is a safe and secure refuge for survivors by supplying free advocacy and shelter. Additionally, there are Pathfinders, which specializes in providing advocacy and shelter specifically for youth. To find a full list of organizations, visit the link below:


by Shenandoah LaRock

April is Autism Spectrum Disorder awareness month. This is when I see parents, friends, and peers “Light it up Blue” on their Facebook profile pictures in support of A.S.D. The pretty blue filters are products of Autism Speaks, America’s largest autism research organization. When the temporary profile picture expires, I do not see these allies again until next year. What I do see is continuous negative stigmatization of autistic people as infantilized people who are unable to self-advocate.

According to the Autism Speaks website, their improvements in the autism community include, “increased global awareness of autism, better understanding of the breadth of autism, and advocacy to increase research and access to care and support.” ( Bob and Suzanne Wright, who are the grandparents of an autistic child, founded Autisms Speaks in 2005. Since the organizations conception, it has been criticized from members of the A.S.D community because of Autism Speaks’ misrepresentation of A.S.D people and their lack of autistic board members. Non-spectrum people dominate an organization dedicated to helping the A.S.D community. How can people who do not experience the same realities as A.S.D people decide what is best for them? There is also the issue that Autism Speaks has framed autism as a medical condition that must be cured, implying that there is something wrong with Autism Spectrum, and that people that are on the spectrum are inferior.

In her essay “Representing Autism; a Sociological Examination of Autism Advocacy,” Anne McGuire states, “Instead of understanding disability as a medical condition located in individual bodies, the social model locates disability in the physical and social environments and in inter-subjective relations that work to disable impaired bodies. Disability becomes politicized as a category of social oppression and material disadvantage.” The way Autism Spectrum Disorder is represented in the mainstream media promotes the ideology that Autism is a an epidemic, something that parents should be worried about, and reminds parents to look for the signs of autism in their babies. This places much attention on the bodies of autistic individuals. As McGuire states, “This conception of autism, viewing autism as a disorder/series of symptoms creates a binary between the body and identity.” Autism is not something that exists separately from the self, or on the body, instead it is always apart of the identity of the individual. Someone cannot be Autistic and a woman, but instead is always an Autistic woman.

Furthermore, this viewpoint on what Autism Spectrum means for those that are on the spectrum is inferring that they are not viable simply because they are different from what is considered to be “normal.” “Normal” is a difficult concept to define. How do we decide what is normal? Who decides what is normal–when there are so many biological anomalies within society? Someone may look “normal” on the outside, but might be “abnormal” on the inside. Deciding that someone is either normal or not normal creates another binary system synonymous with good and bad, acceptable and socially unacceptable. Instead of advocating for ways to deal with people on the spectrum, maybe some advocacy groups ought to support self-advocacy as well as equal rights and opportunities for those on the spectrum.

One way to support the Autism Spectrum community is by getting involved in self-advocacy organizations.“Nothing about us without us” is ASAN’s mission statement ( The Autistic Self Advocacy Network “seeks to advance the principles of the disability rights movement with regards to autism. ASAN believes that goal of autism advocacy is a world in which autistic people enjoy equal access, rights, and opportunities”.

Another way to support the Autism Spectrum community and challenge the status quo is by sharing stories. Change starts small. It could be with something as simple as sharing your story. As I looked through Autism Speaks website it was difficult for me to find any material directed towards people on the spectrum. When I looked through ASAN’s website I found a page where those on the spectrum could share their experiences.

I encourage anyone that may be reading this to go forth and write your stories.

I see you.

I am listening.



STIs; Awareness and Acceptance

by Mariah Lord

Outside of a painfully awkward 10th grade health class, STIs are very rarely brought up in daily conversation. However, 50% of sexually active people contract an STI before the age of 25 (American Sexual Health Association). STIs are not as uncommon as you would think, it’s just that no one wants to talk about them. Chances are, you or your friends probably have or will have an STI in your lifetime.

Our society uses scare tactics to promote sexual health, or rather, abstinence. The only 100% chance of preventing pregnancy, STIs, and STDs is to not have sex at all, remember?  This type of mentality is problematic because it insinuates that STIs are devastating and life ruining situations, and places blame onto the individual. The truth of the matter is that STIs are treatable by medical professionals. If you are sexually active, it’s very important that you get yourself tested regularly. Many STIs don’t have any symptoms or may lie dormant for years at a time. If get rid of the negative stigmas associated with STIs, getting testing/having STIs won’t seem scary anymore.

Half of all the diagnoses for STIs are contracted by young  people, and only 12% of young people actually get tested for them. We need to move away from the mentality that we will never be the one to contract an STI and begin to see the reality of their pervasiveness. I am proposing the radical idea that we all become a little more comfortable with talking about STI’s. Normalizing STI information will eventually reduce the negative stigmas associated with STIs, STDs, and sex in general.

Education and support are the most important components to changing the way society views individuals with STIs as well as stopping the spread of STIs. For many people, the only education they receive on the topic of safe sex and STIs is in middle school and maybe a brief refresher course in high school. My personal experience with this was a room full of giggling pre-teens who weren’t mature enough to realize that, statistically speaking, 80% of them would contract HPV at some point in their future. Maybe if our society encouraged safe sex instead of abstinence, sexually active young adults would be able to make educated and safer decisions when it comes to sex.

It is important to reach out to younger people in case they do engage in sexual contact earlier in life. Since sex is such a taboo subject, often times the only time a teenager/young adult learns about sex is in school. Since sex education in all of its complexity is crammed into one class in middle school/high school, there is no way that a student could remember everything. That is why it is vitally important that we ensure schools have proper education about sexual health that goes into more depth as they enter high school (a time when it is much more relevant for many students). There are many schools that have an extensive sexual health education program, and I commend them. Unfortunately, my own alma mater did not go over the material again adequately. If this was true for my own experience, I am positive that there are many other districts in the US that are not proficient meeting the health needs of their students.

We can all take on a more open and understanding approach in our relationships to help one another out when we it comes to sexual health. This means talking to your teens about sex. Talk to your siblings about sex. Talk to your friends about sex. Encourage the people in your life to go in for regular check-ups. Pay attention to your body and ask your doctor if anything looks or feels different than usual. These are ways we can reduce the number of STI diagnoses.

For the entire month of April, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin will be offering free STI testing. They are offering this as a direct response to the shocking influx of HIV and Syphilis in the Milwaukee area recently. Here is a link to more information about the free testing offered through the rest of April: insurances cover STI/STD tests. If you don’t have insurance you can also get tested at a reduced-cost depending on your income. You can also visit the Norris Health Center for STI testing.


For more information on STI statistics, visit



Nevertheless, She Persisted: a History of the Pill

By: Natanya Russek

For as long as people have been having sex, women have been inventing methods to prevent pregnancy. Resourceful – but typically ineffective – methods of preventing pregnancy throughout history included herbal remedies, makeshift condoms, and behavioral methods like withdrawal. Many women were left with no other choice except sterilization, often with hysterectomy, to prevent pregnancy (The Racist and Sexist History of Keeping Birth Control Side Effects Secret, Vice, 2012).

In the 1950s, the earliest clinical trials on hormonal contraceptives began (History of Birth Control in the United States, Congressional Digest, 2012). Enrollment was forced primarily upon women living in poverty in Puerto Rico. The design of the studies was unquestionably unethical. Participating women, many of whom had low literacy, were not told what the pill was for and were not warned of possible side effects.

Dr. Edris Rice-Wray, the only female physician involved, tried to bring attention to the 17% of enrolled women who were experiencing side effects ranging from weight gain to life-threatening complications like blood clots. Her concerns were dismissed by her colleagues. It wouldn’t be until two decades later that women would be provided a list of possible risks in a pamphlet with their prescription, thanks to advocacy by Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin (The Birth Control Pill: A History, Planned Parenthood).

This high rate of side effects led many women to drop out of early studies. It was again Dr. Rice-Wray who came up with the ethical idea of telling women what the pill was supposed to do that women were willing – and eager – to volunteer to try the new medications (The Racist and Sexist History of Keeping Birth Control Side Effects Secret, Vice, 2012). As rumor spread that a pill could empower women with the ability to control if and when they wanted to get pregnant, more women were willing to participate.

Officially, the FDA did not approve the pill until 1957, and even then resistance to women controlling their own fertility was so strong that the pill could only be prescribed officially for irregular periods. In 1965, the US Supreme Court ruled that married people could be permitted to use the pill and other contraceptives; in 1972 that right was extended to single women.

Today, students on college campuses have many options when it comes to birth control and reproductive health care. Here at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, the Norris Health Center ( offers many resources and services for students. Off campus, Planned Parenthood ( offers confidential, non-biased, and non-judgmental medical services for reproductive health and family planning. Planned Parenthood has five locations here in Milwaukee:

Birth control options from condoms to IUDs are covered by most insurance plans as mandated by the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) with exceptions with respect to religious freedoms. If your insurance plan does not cover these services, many students may also be eligible for Badgercare’s Family Planning Only Services which guarantee access to contraception and women’s health screening visits. Planned Parenthood can also help get your birth control delivered to your door 4 times a year.

According to Planned Parenthood, almost 90% of women will use hormonal contraception in their lives, for many reasons like controlling menstrual cramps, treating endometriosis, and family planning. Though I am glad to say we have come a long way in our journey for comprehensive contraceptive options and accessible reproductive health care, there is still progress to be made.

Despite strong evidence for the positive health and economic impacts of reproductive health care, accessing preventive care, including birth control, can be costly and out of reach for many women, especially those with low incomes and people of color (US Dept. of Health & Human Services). Continuous threats to the Title X program, which funds family planning and women’s health screening and serves more than 3.5 million low-income women through Planned Parenthood and Medicaid, are a direct threat to the wellbeing and autonomy of women (National Women’s Law Center).

All women regardless of age, race, or ability to pay deserve access to affordable, effective, and accessible contraceptive choices and comprehensive contraceptive counseling. For many women in the United States there are still far too many barriers to accessing care. This Women’s History Month, we must continue to stand up to defend our rights, and we must use our voices to work towards reproductive justice for all women to access the care we deserve.


Natanya Russek is a second year medical student at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. She is now living here in Milwaukee to complete her clinical training through the Training in Urban Medicine and Public Health (TRIUMPH) Program.


Wanted Woman

By: Shenandoah LaRock

photo credit:

Asata Shakur (born JoAnne Byron) was born in New York, New York, and grew up respectively in both Jamaica, and North Carolina. At the age of seventeen Asata was bored with school, so she dropped out of high school and moved out of her mother’s house. She worked minimum wage jobs to support herself all the while going to night school. Not long after Asata moved out on her own, she met African students from Columbia University who introduced her to the political systems within the U.S.

 “Before moving back to college, I knew didn’t want to be an intellectual, spending my life in books and libraries not knowing what the hell is going on in the streets. Theory without practice is just as incomplete as practice without theory. The two have to go together.”

– Asata Shakur, Asata: An Autobiography


Her African colleagues also taught her about communism, imperialism and Black Consciousness, which inspired her political awaking. She changed her name from JoAnne Byron to Asata Shakur [ Asata means “she who struggles” and Shakur means “the thankful one”] all to better fit the revolutionary woman she knew she wanted to be. When she attended community college she joined protests and supported the Black Liberation Movement, the student’s rights movement, and the movement to end the Vietnam war. She eventually became a member of the Black Panther Party, but left due to disagreement with authoritarian leadership within the group. As a member of the Black Panther Movement, Asata was subject to harassment and violence. Since she was a known former member of the BPP, she was always under surveillance so she went “underground” and joined the Black Liberation Army.

In 1973, New Jersey state troopers stopped Asata and several other BLA members for driving with a ‘broken taillight’ and ‘speeding’. Upon searching their vehicle, the state troopers discovered guns in the car, which led to a shootout. Asata was shot and seriously injured by state troopers while she tried to surrender. One state trooper, Werner Foerster, died from injuries, and Asata was immediately arrested. She was put on trial for the death of Werner Foerster and held in prison for the next four years. In 1977 Asata was officially charged with the murder of Werner Foerster despite the fact that there was no medical evidence to prove that she could have murdered him.

Two years after her conviction, fellow BLA members helped Asata escape prison and brought her to Cuba where she received political asylum. On May 2nd, 2005, Asata Shakur was added to the FBI’s Domestic Terrorist List. A one million dollar award was offered for assistance in her capture.










“… I am a 20th century escaped slave. Because of government persecution, I was left with noother choice than to flee from the political repression,racism and violence that dominate the US government’s policy towards people of color. I am an ex political prisoner… I have been a political activist most of my life, and although the U.S. government has done everything in its power to criminalize me, I am not a criminal, nor have ever been one. In the 1960s, I participated in various struggles: the black liberation movement, the student rights movement, and the movement to end the war in Vietnam.

I joined the Black Panther Party. By 1969 the Black Panther Party had become the number one organization targeted by the FBI’s COINTELPRO program. Because the Black Panther Party demanded the total liberation of black people, J. Edgar Hoover called it “greatest threat to the internal security of the country” and vowed to destroy it and its leaders and activists.”

– Asata Shakur

Asata Shakur resides in Cuba to this day and is still on the FBI’s most wanted list.

Body Positivism and Jessamyn Stanley

by: Shenandoah LaRock

Like any star, Jessamyn Stanley wasn’t expecting to be famous. She has a podcast ( Listener) a blog ( and she’s the author of Everybody Yoga. Jessamyn is currently a yoga teacher and a self-proclaimed “Fat Femme”. She is probably most known for her Instagram profile mynameisjessamyn where she posts photos and videos of her at-home yoga practices.  She wasn’t always into yoga though.

Jessamyn was introduced to yoga at age 16 when she attended one of her aunt’s Bikram yoga classes. For those that don’t know, Bikram yoga is a series of 26 postures performed in a very hot room (95-105°). The experience was, to quote Jessamyn, “HELL. ON. EARTH.” She thought she would never step foot into a hot, sweaty room again.  Several years later, when she was in grad school, Jessamyn’s friends encouraged her to buy a monthly unlimited pass to their local Bikram studio. The experience was different this time around.

“Even though my first few classes were extremely intense (i.e.-inconsistent breathing, drinking excessive water, premature exhaustion) …Unlike other physical activities, yoga awakened my spiritual curiosity even when I was pressed against the boundary of physical exhaustion.”

She became determined to practice yoga daily. Yoga classes can be expensive, ranging between $8.00-$25 per adult depending on the type of class and the instructor. Jessamyn established a work-study program at the local bikram studio in exchange for free classes. However, after Jessamyn moved to Durham, North Carolina, she couldn’t afford to pay the rates for Bikram classes. This didn’t stop her from practicing the 26 poses at home on her own time. She eventually discovered high energy vinyasa. High energy vinyasa is a type of yoga where each posture flows into another pose, which is more relaxed and free flowing, versus Bikram yoga where the body is focused on the same 26 postures.

Jessamyn documented her practice by posting photos/videos on Instagram and quickly became insta famous. Jessamyn has caught the attention of many simply because she is a self-proclaimed “fat femme”. There are plenty of unrealistically ‘thin’/‘fit’ body images in social media, especially when it comes to yoga.  Jessamyn focuses on practices that emphasize “how do I feel?” versus “What do I look like?” When people see larger bodies they tend to automatically label them as ‘unhealthy’ and assume that they don’t eat right or that they don’t exercise enough, which isn’t always the case.

“Quite frankly, the health eating world is EXTREMELY body negative, even though many of us fatpos & bodypos people tend to work towards/live healthy lifestyles…And yeah I know I’ll probably fall off the wagon at some point. But I’m not focused on that, I’m just going to stay in the moment and drink my f*cking juice.”


There are many different factors that determine someone’s body size, and all of those factors aren’t anybody’s business but their own. So go out and live your fullest life, no matter what your body type!


How About You Worry About Yourself: An Exploration of “Prostitute” Politics We Never Asked For

by: Eva Juniel

Let’s start by clarifying that “prostitute” is a negatively stigmatized and stereotyped word for sex worker. A sex worker is an individual who receives money or goods in exchange for sexual services. This can include a variety of services, not just sexual intercourse. You may be thinking, “Okay but that sounds just like a prostitute”. Technically you aren’t wrong. However, if you use the term ‘prostitute’, you are contributing to a long history of shaming, systematic oppression, and cultural incompetence. When it comes down to it, these are just people who are doing their jobs. It seems that there are a lot of misconceptions of sex work, who knew?

The term sex worker was coined to put an emphasis on WORK and to create a connection between sex work and “regular” work for people outside of the industry. Sex is kept behind closed doors, or in the wide-wide open. Those are the extremes, that is understood, but we can all safely assume sex is a private matter for most. When sex workers are brought into the conversation most people have already built an image in their head of what they think a sex worker is. They may think of a person who resembles that of Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver (which was actually an example of trafficking), Or Keisha Knight Pulliman’s character in Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail. That being said, these stories can actually exist but to assume and to apply these narratives to most if not all sex workers is at bare minimum highly problematic. The only part of these stories that is true for all is the lack of systematic protection and systematic targeting of women in the sex work industry. For far too long sex workers have had narratives that weren’t their own shoved down their throats by people who don’t know a thing about their true struggles, their true passions, or their truth. Since sex workers have a different approach to the supposed monolith known as sex. People on the more ‘closed’ end of the ‘open-mindedness spectrum’ tend to not listen or pass hasty judgements as to what they think sex workers are doing.

40-Year-Old Virgins and Meet the Fokkens are two documentaries that help dispel the false narratives of sex work. Channel 4’s documentary 40-year-old Virgins is about, “Two Virgins [who] take tentative steps toward intercourse when they commit to intensive sex therapy in the U.S.” which is available on Netflix. Before watching, be aware that this content involves sexual intercourse and sex talk. Meet the Fokkens is a documentary about 70-year-old Fokken twins, who were Amsterdam’s oldest prostitutes until their recent retirement. The documentary itself takes an unusually lighthearted look at the lives of sex workers, which are indeed often filled with humor and absurdity. This portrayal of the Fokken’s lifestyle was difficult for some film critics to comprehend. One New York Times critic stated that since the film does not explain why the Fokkens twins chose a life of sex work, the film fails to be anything more than “another sad story about whores”.

Despite critic reviews, the Women’s Resource Center is here to dispel the false narratives of sex work and provide more universal expression of sex work. There are some positives and negatives about each film mentioned above, but both of them are rooted in or molded by the hands of sex workers themselves.

For more information on sex work you can visit:



Gender & Sexual Violence Support Group

Do you ever want to talk about your trauma, but you’re not sure who to go to, or how to talk about it? The Women’s Resource Center will be hosting a support group for anyone who has experienced gender* and/or sexual violence. We understand that talking about your experiences with supportive peers is one of the best forms of therapy. We will meet every Wednesday, starting February 14th, in Student Union room 198 from 12:00 PM to 1:00PM. No RSVP necessary!

*The WRC welcomes people of all gender identities.


For more information, please contact UWM’s Confidential Survivor Support Resources at UWM.EDU/NORRIS/HEALTH-SERVICES/SEXUAL-VIOLENCE-SERVICES/CONTACT:VICTIMADVOCACY@UWM.EDU| 414-229-4582

The Warriors of Wakanda

by: Shenandoah LaRock

I consider myself a Marvel fan since I saw the first X-Men movie and I fell in love with Storm. In honor of Black History Month, I did some research about black superheroes in the Marvel Universe. As I thought about the subject, I realized that I didn’t know many black and/or African American superheroes. I had heard of Misty Knight, Luke Cage, and obviously Black Panther; but were there more black women in Marvel aside from Storm and Misty Knight? With that question in mind, I took to the Internet.

I discovered the best Marvel comic you’ve probably never heard of, but wished you would have. In 2016, Marvel launched a spin-off comic series of Black Panther entitled Black Panther: World of Wakanda. From the creative minds of Roxanne Gay [author of An Untamed State, Bad Feminist, and more] and Yona Harvey [author of Hemming the Water] comes the story about two warriors, who also just happen to be lovers. Ayo and Aneka are members of the Dora Milaje [pronounced dora-meh-la-shay]. They are royal bodyguards trained to protect the monarch of Wakanda at all costs. In an interview with DIVA magazine, Roxanne Gay states, “The lack of representation in comics, for people of colour and queer people — really anyone who is different — has long been an issue.” Sadly, the series was cancelled after a release of only six issues.

That didn’t stop fans from getting excited when seeing Danai Guira [Okoye] and Florence Kasumba [Ayo] on set for the upcoming Black Panther film. A Marvel spokesperson released a statement saying that relationship between the two characters would not be romantic. In response, fans started the popular Twitter hashtag #letayohaveagirlfriend. Even though there are only six issues of Black Panther: World of Wakanda, they can still be purchased online for $1.99 per issue, or all six issues for $11.94. I think that it’s a series worth reading because World of Wakanda is groundbreaking in that not only does it feature powerful women of color as protagonists, women of color also wrote it.