Utah’s Attorney General, Mark Shurtleff, spoke with High School students from around the U.S. Thursday, to help raise awareness of child sex trafficking. The students are in Salt Lake City for one week to learn how to create awareness campaigns when they return to their hometown schools.
The group is known as Backyard Broadcast and is part of the Child Rescue organization. It works to raise awareness and stop child sex exploitation within the United States. Danielle Palmer, Development President for Backyard Broadcast, says people’s willingness to talk about child sex trafficking is a key part to raising awareness.
“The most important things for people to understand is that it’s happening here,” she says. “We have to start being willing to talk about it. We have to start being willing to go to our legislators and say ‘This is important.’”
At least 100,000 U.S. children are caught up in child sex trafficking according to the Department of Justice. Shurtleff and many others have worked over the past year to increase awareness on a national level. He says that includes better defined crimes, enhanced penalties for offenders and increased resources for victims.
“The biggest problem with this is that the people hear about prostitution and they look down at the prostitute. Obviously, they’re treated as if they are the perpetrator, in many cases, especially with children, they’re the victims,” he says.
Members of the FBI and other law enforcement agencies also spoke with the students at the event.