Human Trafficking Awareness

From LouAnn Christensen, 2017 Utah Mother of the Year

LouAnn Christensen visiting with Senator Orrin Hatch in his office in Washington DC during the National Convention

What wonderful opportunities I’ve had this past year as serving as Mother of the Year for the state of Utah.  Many wonderful mothers could’ve taken my place; however, I was nominated by the Ladies Community Club of Brigham City in November of 2016.  When I was chosen among the amazing women who had also been nominated, I was speechless!  Each of the moms was remarkable in their own way.  I do not consider myself a great role model as a mother; however, I have tried my best everyday to be a good mom.  And I’ve learned that that’s good enough.

As a state honoree I attended the national convention in Washington DC that is sponsored by American Mothers.  I met such talented, dedicated, and gracious women representing American Mothers and other state delegates throughout America & Puerto Rico.

One of the presentations given at the conference was by the Nebraska delegation of Mothers concerning Human Trafficking Prevention.  I was surprised that this was an issue within the United States.  A human sex trafficker’s profits are fluid and continue as long as they enslave their victims.  A young child, teenager or adult can be coerced through promises of a better life, a job opportunity, or a secure drug source.  Reality hit me hard that this was a challenge that I needed to address.

Returning home, I decided that I wanted to bring awareness to this cause.  I learned that there were several groups very involved in this effort in our state.  One group was the Junior League of Salt Lake City, lead by Kori Renwick.  We spoke several times by phone last summer.   I was surprised to learn about the many activities they were involved with in the prevention, education,  and support of those victims who were entangled in this criminal activity.  I learned that January is the month for human trafficking awareness.  I offered to work with groups interested to create a proclamation signed by Governor Herbert declaring January as the Human Trafficking Prevention month.  Kori and I were hoping to get the press there and have the many groups involved to stand behind the Governor on the capitol steps as he read the proclamation.

In meeting with Attorney Russell Smith from the Attorney General’s office, he offered to write a draft version of the declaration and was enthusiastic about our efforts to raise awareness.   I learned that human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world today, tied with arms smuggling.  It may soon surpass the illicit drug trade as the most lucrative of international crimes.  We must do all in our power to stop the spread of this horrific crime.

Utah Mothers members with Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes – Melanie Stoker, Dori Bowman, and LouAnn Christensen

I worked with Governor Herbert and Lieutenant Governor Cox’s offices in supporting us in our cause.   When the Attorney General’s office got word of what we were doing, they decided this was a great opportunity to honor those groups who’ve been in the trenches fighting this criminal enterprise.  On Tuesday morning, January 9, 2018, an awards ceremony was held at the Utah State Capitol’s Gold room where Attorney General Sean Reyes honored groups throughout the state who’ve been working on Human Trafficking prevention.  Before each group was presented, the Attorney General read the declaration that was written and signed by Governor Gary Herbert.   The groups who were awarded the 2018 Attorney General Human Trafficking Justice Award were:  Operation Underground Railroad, Refugee Immigrant Center- Asian Association of Utah, SHEROES United, Junior League of Salt Lake City, Grace House Children’s Project, Backyard Broadcast, Standing Together, and Fight the New Drug.   A reception was held afterwards for networking opportunities.  Media and press coverage brought the awareness we were hoping for.

Read the Declaration on Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, January 2018

(Editor’s Note: LouAnn Christensen was recognized by Attorney General Sean Reyes for her efforts in working with the Governor’s and AG Offices to make this declaration become a reality. She was tenacious and kept in touch with all parties!)

Attorney General Sean Reyes stated that currently there are forty million modern day slaves throughout the world.  According to the Polaris Project website the top five risk factors in the United States include:

  1. Recent Migration/ Relocation
  2. Substance Use Concern
  3. Runaway/ Homeless Youth
  4. Mental Health Concern
  5. Unstable Housing

In the United States the average age a child enters the sex trade is 12-18 years of age.

Collaborating with others dedicated to the same cause brings success!  I was so pleased that I had a part to play in bringing together this event to recognize January as Human Trafficking Prevention Month in Utah and honoring those who are working very hard to make a difference with the victims caught inside this web of criminal activity.

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