SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – There are ways to help stop sex trafficking and it begins with the potential victims. After 8 people were indicted on child sex trafficking in Utah, this training couldn’t have come at a better time for these teens.
“You think sex trafficking you think Europe, you think third world countries, you don’t think America, let alone – I didn’t think Utah.”
That was a startling fact 17-year-old Nikolah Kershinsnik discovered when she became apart of Backyard Broadcast. Today, at the Impact Hub in downtown Salt Lake she met with several teenagers looking to address sex trafficking in the state.
Today, she says she was surprised to learn that many of the teens in the state didn’t know sex trafficking occurred here at home.
“I have five people in there who up until five days ago didn’t know that sex trafficking happened in Utah,” she said.
That’s why several teens joined in on this four-hour training session today which was put on by Backyard Broadcast, a youth resistance movement that is aimed at fighting sex trafficking. The program uses a three prong education system concentrating on educating themselves, their friends and their community and going to the state level, actively working with state leaders and on legislation to improve child sex trafficking laws. They also seek to work with local law enforcement.
“We hope to do training sessions with police officers and just do little things to bring awareness,” said 17-year-old Sarah Weyrich.
This was Sarah and her friends first time attending a training session. They first heard about the program through their friend Nikolah and through seeing posts on social media. They plan to open their own club at their high school this year in hopes that it will help further educate their classmates on this issue that directly affects their age group.
“There’s anywhere between 5 and 6-year-olds that are being balanced out by 17-year-olds so, you have these tiny children or people my age who are all falling victim,” said 17-year-old Nick Weaver.
That’s why these kids felt it was their duty to become proactive in this fight. Many of them have younger siblings and this issue brings into focus the severity of the crime. They hate to think of a world where someone their brother or sisters age could be a victim of sex trafficking. Through their training they learned the average age for a victim of sex trafficking is 13. But, children as young as 5 and as old as 21 have fallen victim as well. They’ve learned how to identify a sex trafficker, and that they aim to gain their victims trust before they take advantage. They also learned how to recognize those more likely to be the most vulnerable, who is most at risk and how to help them.
Several of these kids have worked with state leaders and helped draft legislation to address sex trafficking in the state. The have worked to modify the current safe harbor bill and are currently working on modifying the bill to extend to include the ages of 18-21.
Nikolah Kershinsik is one of those teens who has actively worked with the Capitol to change the world saying, “I did testify on Capitol Hill on behalf of modifying the Safe Harbor Bill for the penalty of trafficking a minor.”
While sex traffickers are out there, preying on the vulnerable, these kids will continue to fight to make sure not another child is a victim of this crime.