LOCAL NEWS

Hundreds Of Utahns Rally For Human Trafficking Awareness

Jul 31, 2020, 12:58 PM | Updated: Aug 28, 2020, 1:34 pm

ST. GEORGE, Utah – For months, there has been a lot of attention on U.S. history – black lives, civil rights, and slavery. This week modern day slavery, in the form of human trafficking, took center stage around the world and right here in Utah.

From the streets of St. George to the steps of the state capitol building in Salt Lake City, thousands of Utahns marched, chanted and peacefully assembled – shining a light on the millions of people, often children, trafficked for sex.

Thursday was World Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Many were dressed in blue and yellow. Blue is the universal color for human trafficking prevention, and yellow represented the nonprofit Operation Underground Railroad, which helped organize the rallies.

“Now’s the time to talk about it,” said Desi Garcia. “It’s definitely something you would have no idea is happening, but it’s happening right in front of you.”

Garcia founded Candle In A Dark Room, a non-profit organization created to help victims of sexual abuse and sex trafficking.

She launched a website and a podcast to tell her story, and teamed up with Operation Underground Railroad and thousands of others to bring something so dark into the spotlight.

“You know, I’ve interviewed victims of sex trafficking, victims of all types of trauma, and I think we carry that shame for a really long time,” said Garcia. “This is something we don’t talk about. This is something we can’t handle.”

Operation Underground Railroad has not only exposed the world of child sex trafficking, but has literally gone in to fight it.

“OUR puts boots on the ground and sets up operations to save those children,” a spokesperson told KSL. “They go in with local law enforcement, set up stings and arrest the people who are trafficking children.”

According to UNICEFF, 2 million children – the majority of them girls – are exploited in the commercial sex industry. The international labor organization estimated human trafficking earns roughly $150 billion a year for traffickers.

People like Aley Lindgren feel a responsibility to fight it.

“It’s modern day slavery,” she said. “As a mom, I can’t hear stories about children being raped and tortured, and not want to do something.”

Neither can the thousands of others who came out for Friday’s protests – hoping through rallies, education and harsher laws, the guilty will pay the price.

“People are getting trafficked with people they know,” said Garcia.

She had a message to those involved in human trafficking,

“You will not get away with this,” Garcia said. “We are looking for you. We will find you, and you will not get away with this.”

In the United States, people are usually trafficked by someone they know, like a parent, family member or a so-called friend. There were 11,500 cases reported in 2019.

If you suspect a case, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.

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Hundreds Of Utahns Rally For Human Trafficking Awareness