KALISPELL, Mont. - There's new focus on reports of child sex trafficking in Montana and across the country, and it's coming from U.S. Senator Max Baucus. He met with the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday morning to shed light on the issue. We spoke with anti-trafficking advocates who applauded his effort.
"Any time we can have a public official come out and make a statement as powerful as this, it really does help the overall cause. It's a misunderstood crime," said Diane Yarus of Soroptimist International.
With nearly 100,000 children exploited ever year, Yarus told us it's easy to make mistakes kids as "underage prostitutes" rather than realizing they're actually "prostituted children" and victims of a horrific cycle.
We checked with the Montana Department of Justice and discovered there were 69 missing children from all over the state which means even cities like Kalispell are not immune to the dangers of trafficking and exploitation. Now, some worry the economic boom in the oil fields of the Bakken will bring more crime and prostitution, putting Montana children at a higher risk.
"We cannot sit by and let any more children suffer in silence. These are our sons and daughters and it's our job to protect them," explained Baucus.
Yarus and others at Soroptimist International will push to ensure that everyone is aware of the problem that is plaguing not only Montana, but the rest of the nation.
"While we'd like advocates like in foster care and people who are working with that youth to be aware of red flags and signals, we really need to educate law enforcement on how to encounter this when they identify this victim," said Yarus.