Pulling victims from the sex trade, one person at a time

Published: Saturday, Aug. 31 2013 7:40 p.m. MDT

“I always had this urge to be like somebody, you know? But every time I would get on my feet somebody would knock me down,” she said.

She and her husband met when she was 18 and began raising his daughter and had three more children together. Eventually she received counseling to deal with anxiety and depression that arose as symptoms from the trauma of her youth.

“I never thought I was worth more than what I was doing and where I was put,” she said.

She started college with a photography certificate in mind, but is now moving toward her doctorate in social work.

She is hoping to be elected to public office at some point and work toward increasing public recognition and prevention of trafficking.

“This is ingrained within our culture and it's going to take a paradigm shift for people to start viewing these women as victims instead of you know, prostitutes when they’re being exploited by a dominant culture,” she said.

The other thing that needs to change, she said, it how law enforcement and the public refer to these cases.

"We're not talking about it as rape for profit. We're talking about it as prostitution to soften the blow."

Resources

A task force was created within the Utah Attorney General's Office in October 2012 and since that time has worked to create a better environment for these victims.

Tammie Atkin with the Attorney General's office helped create the task force.

“We wanted to find out where we are deficient and try to fill in those gaps with a whole bunch of people,” she said.

Any victim of crime in Utah is entitled to $3,000 worth of counseling, Atkin said, as long as they apply through the Utah Office of Victims and Crimes. If the youth is not from the United States, they will qualify for services from the Division of Health and Human Services, as long as they testify in the prosecution of the trafficker.

If they are from the United States, they will receive services from the Division of Child and Family Services, as long as the division becomes aware of them. They can receive family therapy, individual counseling, drug and alcohol treatment or whatever other resource they need to help them with the transition out of the trade.

Atkin is a victim advocate and said for her, there are not enough resources specifically catered to victims of the sex trade. Ideally, she said, there would be a stand-alone facility, with counseling and housing for victims of trafficking. However, she said, "it all takes money," and the victims "require a lot of services for a long period of time."

Gregory Ferbrache, on the Utah Attorney General's Secure Strike Force team, said that currently victims of the sex trade can have access to recovery services, which are usually provided through the Division of Child and Family Services. However, the city is still developing specific services for victims of trafficking.

"I don't know that the community is prepared to take on a vast number of human trafficking victims," he said.

However, the strike force is applying for grants to get funding for sanctuaries of victims. Ferbrache also said he is trying to find a way to provide long-term services to these victims.

Law enforcement is also beginning to consider the possibility that an adult woman arrested for sexual solicitation may have been threatened or coerced into the trade.

"I do think that's changing and I do think law enforcement is taking that into consideration now," Atkin said.

Taking this approach to all sexual solicitation cases may not be as simple as it seems.

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