GPD Detective Christine Winterholler addresses the Save Our Children Rally Saturday.
Tami Rogers and her daughter Mariah are on a mission to end childhood sexual exploitation in all of its forms, and together, the two are taking on the issue head-first, beginning with a rally to raise awareness about the magnitude of the problem both in Gillette and elsewhere.
The First Annual Save Our Children Rally and Awareness Walk was held Saturday afternoon at the Pat Mueller Shelter in Dalbey Memorial Park with dozens of people turning out. The event aimed to shine a light on the dark world of child sexual abuse and sex trafficking, and Rogers said she was happy to see so many likeminded people who came out to support the event.
Rogers first took an interest in the problem after Mariah, who was one of the speakers Saturday, became involved with the World Day Against Human Trafficking March earlier this year. The two have since devoted themselves to this worthy cause, she said. The rally was the next step in combatting the issue, and it won’t be the last, according to Rogers.
One in four girls and one in six boys in this country is sexually abused by age 18, per data from the Children’s Advocacy Project website, and there are 39 million survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the U.S. These statistics, among others, spurred Rogers into action as well, she said, so she doesn’t plan on letting up until she sees a change.
“This will be an annual event,” Rogers said Monday. “We had about 150 people there, and I’m happy about that. But it’s just the first step.”
It was the courage of the speakers that really stood out to Rogers, she said. Multiple women stood in front of the crowd that gathered and recounted in detail some of the horrors of their own experiences.
“You can’t help but cry, listening to those stories, to things that happened right here to people we know,” Rogers said.
Gillette Police Department (GPD) Detectives Christine Winterholler and Eric Small spoke at the gathering as well, sharing tips and things parents should watch for to ensure their own children remain safe.
The event featured live music from local band The Pillage People, attractions from Fun on the Go, pulled pork prepared by Don Inman of Gillette, hot dogs grilled by Kyle Bridges and several speakers, ending with an awareness walk that took approximately 40 walkers under Highway 59 and around to the Cricket Wireless parking lot.
While Rogers is happy with the turnout and deemed the event a first-year success, there’s more work to do, she said.
“We will be meeting at the end of this month with legislators and officials like Troy McKeown, Tim Salazar and Colleen Faber to discuss sentencing guidelines for sex crimes and trafficking crimes,” she said. “Wyoming’s laws are not as strong as they should be. We want to see that change.”