LOGAN—Human trafficking is a worldwide problem that involves the exploitation of individuals through coercion, force or fraud. It’s an ongoing problem in many parts of the United States, including rural areas of central and southern Utah.
Some of the most common types of human trafficking are sexual exploitation, forceful labor and forced criminal activity.
Recently, the Utah State University Women and Leadership Project (UWLP) completed a report on human trafficking from roughly 50 sources. The study was compiled to better understand the significance of the problem among females in Utah.
According to the UWLP report, six people were taken into custody for alleged human trafficking and prostitution in massage parlors in Utah County in February 2021. Additionally, the National Human Trafficking Hotline received 182 tips in connection to 64 alleged human trafficking cases in the state during 2020.
In 2018, the Utah Attorney General’s Office conducted 49 human trafficking investigations. The report also states that eight of those cases were prosecuted, bringing justice to 44 victims.
Susan Madsen, founding director of the UWLP and one of the four authors of the report, noted that human traffickers do not discriminate and that victims were diverse in sexual orientation, nationality, ethnicity, race and socioeconomic status.
“However, the 2020 U.S. federal criminal court cases showed that 98% of victims of sex trafficking were female, and 60% of victims of forced labor were male,” she said in a press release. “These rates only reflect those who are identified, rather than the actual rates of those trafficked. We assume the actual numbers are much higher.”
The UWLP researchers have identified three ways that Utah leaders and residents can help slow the human trafficking problem.
First, put preventative measures in place, including community- and school-based education on what human trafficking looks like to spread awareness of it. According to researchers, this will help slow the problem before it can even begin.
Second, identify victims using screening tools in different settings, including education, social services, medicine, immigration services and legal/criminal court proceedings.
Third, the report says that intervention is critical to ending the threats of human trafficking. This way, survivors can receive the assistance (both immediate and long-term) that they will need to rebuild their lives.
“A multi-pronged approach that targets prevention, identification and intervention and uses a coordinated community response is necessary to help prevent human trafficking in Utah,” Madsen said in a press release. “With coordinated community responses and partnerships between government and organizations, Utahns can help save lives and change victims’ futures. As Utah works to decrease human trafficking within the state, our communities will become safer, and we can strengthen the power of our Utah girls and women.”