MISSOULA - It's Montana's "dirty little secret". A crime so repulsive its perpetrators live in fear of getting caught. But a new public service campaign aims to send the message that's exactly what's going to happen to those involved in child sex trafficking.
While Montana is making inroads to combat human trafficking working with surrounding states, there's one area of major concern -- children being taken captive and being forced into the sex trade to satisfy adults.
A new public service campaign launched this week called "Unmasked" aims to bring attention to what has been an unspeakable crime.
"We've done that before on the issue of fighting child sex trafficking and we're pleased to do that once again with a Georgia non-profit called "Street Grace" that focuses on trying to stop human trafficking -- in particular, child sex trafficking, and the Montana Broadcasters Association," Montana Attorney General Tim Fox said.
"It targets the customers of child sex trafficking and sends the message to them that they're not anonymous. That we know who they are. That we're going to find them and we'll bring them to justice.," Fox added.
You might be under the impression that sex trafficking is an urban problem, that it doesn't affect rural areas like Montana. But the statistics don't bear that out. Fox says Montana is actually both a source for victims and a destination for their predators.
In fact, the Department of Justice says the number of juveniles rescued from human trafficking has gone up by 400% in the past two years. Fox told MTN News that it's difficult to know if that's because enforcement is up, child sex trafficking is on the increase or a combination of both.
But Fox feels community awareness is key to stopping the tragedy ruining these young lives…
"We have been able to catch human traffickers who are not only bringing individuals, typically minors, into Montana for sex trafficking, but we've also had young people from Montana who have essentially fallen into this trap and have been abused physically and mentally and otherwise and dragged into this criminal activity," Fox explained.
In addition to Montana, other attorneys general offices participating in the Demand an End Campaign include Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, and South Carolina.