The general public in Missoula is vastly unaware of the depth to which human trafficking and sex trafficking exist locally, says longtime Missoula Police Detective Guy Baker. The average age of a young girl trapped in sex slavery, human trafficking and prostitution is 14, said Baker, who has handled 60 such cases in Missoula since There is no Missoula law, but state and federal laws exist.
After much testifying to enlighten legislators, Baker and the Missoula Human Trafficking Task Force convinced them to make some changes on behalf of victims. So we changed that. The reason is that the prostitution definition in Montana required penetration.
Another problem the everyday citizen may not be aware of is the proliferation of online sex trafficking sites that mimic the now-defunct Back website, which the U. Department of Justice closed down in Among the look-alike online sites that deal in mostly underage girls who live in poverty, may be homeless, and who are especially vulnerable to an older man who buys them lunch to earn their trust include:. Many of the replacement websites mimic the style and font of the Back, too, to attract men of all types, said Baker. Regularly driving the supply and demand of the sex trade are unattached or transient males in a community or area, including oil industry workers, military personnel, truck drivers, conventioneers, sporting event fans, migrant laborers and sexual tourists.
Coercion can be either physical or psychological; subtle or overt.
Movement or smuggling need not be included. Pimps typically earn the trust of young girls in plain sight — especially middle-school kids who are at their most vulnerable. Typical sex trafficking indicators include places of business in open sight: massage parlors, strip clubs, modeling agencies, bars and truck stops. Baker has worked on cases involving coerced young girls and prostitutes forced to solicit in plain sight at local truck stops.
One in three minors living on the streets will be approached by a pimp or lured into prostitution, according to nationwide statistics. Eventually, 3 in 4 adult prostitutes were introduced into the sex trades when they were minors, Baker said. There are more victims of slavery today than at any time in history.
However, the good news is that prosecutors are working together to change the law for the better, said Baker, whose Human Trafficking Task Force next meets on Dec. Anyone interested in learning more can attend, said his task force colleague, Katharina Werner, a d clinical social worker and director of field education at the University of Montana School of Social Work. One of the founding members of the Human Trafficking Task Force, Werner said the group has grown to include over 50 community organizations.
Obviously, Guy brings some of the intervention, law enforcement, prevention work, prosecution end of things.
A few years ago, the task force began talks with Missoula County Public Schools to possibly create a curriculum to raise awareness for students starting in middle school. We suggested through several meetings and avenues to really think how we can get a prevention-based curriculum into the schools early.
However, Werner said the survey does not include much-needed questions about sexual exploitation. Collecting information about it would be a starting point.
Raising awareness among a broad spectrum of adults in power is a natural place to start. The better educated the general public, the better chance of recognizing a sex slave trade situation. That is why these trainings bring awareness to this and going over the indicators is so important.
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