Speaker: human sex trafficking not limited to overseas
Human trafficking might sound like something straight out of a horror movie or something that only happens in third-world countries, but getting caught in the terror trap could happen to anyone. According to Backyard Broadcast, it happens in our own backyards.
Backyard Broadcast, the youth campaign of the Child Rescue Association of North America, is trying to make young people aware that human trafficking isn’t just something that happens in movies, but everywhere. The program starts clubs in high schools, empowering youth and helping them understand the problem. The campaign’s theory is that youth know danger signs, they won’t be made victims because of their naivety.
Representatives from Backyard Broadcast came to the U yesterday in preparation for their legislative letter blitz. Starting Feb. 27 and going through March, the group is running a nationwide effort, encouraging the public to write to legislators and tell them that this issue matters.
Awareness is the first step. Stephanie Larsen, co-founder of Backyard Broadcast, said the language we use to describe the issue has mislabeled the problem in the United States for too long.
“What I’ve come to realize is that it’s not that [members of law enforcement] don’t know about it, but it’s being mislabeled as prostitution … These kids didn’t choose to be there, so putting them in jail is not going to solve the problem,” Larsen said.
In fact, the average victim is forced into the sex trade at age 13.
“They are so easily tricked into that lifestyle,” said Genna Lasko, program manager of Child Rescue. “The reality is that these girls are victims of child abuse.”
Lasko said that the traffickers’ recruiting process is complex and can take weeks or even months. Many are kidnapped after responding to modeling offers at the mall, and others fall victim to pretend boyfriends.
“These traffickers are master manipulators,” Lasko said. “They have complete control over these girls.”
Backyard Broadcast is fighting the issue with education, and part of that means understanding what is going on around you. At raiseyourgrade.org, Shared Hope International has given each state a grade for it trafficking and explains why that grade has been given. Georgia, which was known for trafficking issues involving young boys, has moved up to a B, but Utah has a stagnant and frightening D, not much better than California’s F, Larsen said.
Starting Feb. 27, Utah’s report on raiseyourgrade.org will have a link to help construct a letter to Gov. Gary Herbert, including specifics about sex trafficking laws in Utah.
“I was looking at the laws here in Utah, and for a man that has child porn on his computer, he’ll become a registered sex offender,” Larsen said. “But a man that buys services … from a child does not go on the register.”
For law enforcement to be able to stop trafficking, there needs to be huge changes in the laws governing it, and Backyard Broadcast hopes this month-long blitz will get the issue on legislators’ minds.
“March will be our first thing, but we are planning to continue it annually or biannually for infinity … until it changes,” Lasko said.
Cameron Silva, an undeclared freshman, was actively involved with the Backyard Broadcast campaign as a student at Timpanogos High School. He is hoping to get a club going at the U.
“I think the biggest part is that people don’t know what sex trafficking is and they want to avoid the subject at all costs,” Silva said. “It does happen in their neighborhoods … I feel like it’s a topic that hasn’t been addressed and it needs to be.”
Short URL: http://www.dailyutahchronicle.com/?p=2583333