County group combats human trafficking
August 22, 2018
One Sweetwater County organization is trying to spread the word about how human trafficking and sex exploitation can happen in Wyoming and even in this county.
For Christal Martin, founder and executive director of Sweetwater Against Trafficking, the fight to stop this from happening to other children is personal.
About one year ago, Martin’s 12-year-old daughter was sexually exploited with a chat website that her daughter could access on her phone called Chatous. While the site seems perfectly harmless, perpetrators are using it as a way to communicate with their potential victims.
Once Martin’s daughter found out how much fun chatting online on the site Omegle could be, she then started searching for chat apps on her phone. Even though there were parental controls on the phone she was able to get the app called Chatous. This app is designed to help a person find other people there age and visit with them from all over the world. It’s a way for children to become more cultural diverse because they are connecting with children there age from other countries.
It was in the Chatous app where Martin’s daughter was targeted by not one perpetrator, but by 20 to 30 different men, who disguised themselves as 12 year olds.
“As a parent, when you first find out, you don’t know how to react,” Martin said.
She quickly found out how these perpetrators were socially grooming her daughter to build a relationship with her and gain her trust. They would then try to break down the trust between her and her daughter.
Martin said eventually these perpetrators revealed their true ages to their victims, but by then they had built up a trust and convinced the child that they are good people who only have their best interests at heart. They then convince children to send them photos and videos of themselves. Often times they say they will send photos or a video back, but they never do or the video or photo is so out of focus they are unidentifiable.
She said it’s not just her daughter that it being targeted and it’s not just girls either. A girl or boy 12 and older and to even adults up to 24 have had this happen to them.
For boys, they are often lured in by online games such as “Fortnite” and Xbox Live games. This gives the perpetrator a way to communicate with them under the guise of someone their own age playing a game they enjoy.
This is why this organization is hosting parent and children classes about various topics. The first class on human trafficking and sexual exploitation for kids is for children ages 12-18, and will take place at the Rock Springs Western Wyoming Community College campus Aug. 27, 29, 31, Sept. 4 and 5 from 6:30-8:30 p.m., each night.
The Green River WWCC kids classes on this same topic will take place Sept. 24, 26, 28, Oct. 3 and 5 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in Room 208. The parents class on this same topic will take place at the Green River WWCC campus Sept. 19 from 7:30-9:30 p.m.
A restorative justice program educational class is also scheduled to take place Sept. 10, from 9-11 a.m. at the Rock Springs WWCC campus in room 1309. To register for any of these classes call Dorothy at WWCC at 307-871-1310.