Tiffany Frandsen | Deputy Managing Editor | @tiffany_mf
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has put a significant emphasis on human trafficking since he took office in 2013, especially in communities with higher numbers of undocumented people, as they are the most vulnerable. Reyes spoke about what the state of Utah is doing in regards to fighting human trafficking, as well as the attitude of violence that fuels domestic violence in an address to students, faculty and community members as the keynote speaker at the Clothesline Project at UVU on April 15.
The Utah AG office has worked domestically and abroad (with Operation Underground on a sting to rescue children in Columbia); the S.E.C.U.R.E Strike Force and partnerships with other law enforcement agencies have increased investigations and prosecutions of human trafficking crimes.
“Human trafficking is an international epidemic that people are just unaware of. We’re talking about 20-30 million human slaves, more modern-day slaves today than during the entire Transatlantic slave trade for all of the generations combined, accumulatively,” said Reyes. “90 percent of the demand [is] U.S. and Canadian businessmen and citizens.”
Reyes mentioned Victor Rax, a human trafficker who was part of the MS-13 gang. He was arrested for sexually abusing young men and boys and using them as mules to get drugs into high schools, junior highs and elementary schools (this was not the first time Rax had been arrested, but previous law enforcement officers were deporting him back to central America, and he had found his way back into the states, specifically West Valley City). While awaiting trial, Rax killed himself in his cell.
Utah also has an organization specifically for crimes over the web – the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which focuses on investigating and charging children pornographers.
Reyes listed statistics from the Clothesline Project regarding sexual and domestic violence. According to the U.S. Department of Justice National Crime Victimization Survey, an average of 300,000 victims, age 12 years or older, are raped each year.
“Utah victims of rape range from two months to 94 years old,” said Reyes.
On the rehabilitation side, there are 22 Children’s Justice Centers that the AG office oversees in Utah—one in nearly every county.
Also in attendance at the Clothesline Project were members of Bikers Against Child Abuse; tough-looking tattooed and leather-sporting men who work with children who have been abused to help them feel protected.
This is the second installment of the project during this school year; last fall’s emphasis was on domestic violence and the spring specifically drew attention to sexual assault.
Tiffany is the Deputy Managing Editor for Spring 2015. Follow her on twitter @tiffany_mf