BILLINGS- A walk is planned for Thursday, July 30, as part of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. It will begin on the Yellowstone County Courthouse lawn at 5:30 p.m. Organizers say sexual exploitation of children has increased exponentially during the COVID-19 period.
Organizers say the walk is a family friendly event. They encourage people to bring signs and wear blue. Blue is the color for child abuse awareness and human trafficking prevention. Organizers also encourage participants to register if possible.
Organizers of the event cite the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children who say they have "experienced a 90.46% increase in CyberTipline reports between January - June 2020 versus the same time period in 2019."
The Montana Department of Justice said, "In the first six months of 2020, the state’s cyber tips related to internet crimes against children rose by nearly 70% compared to the same period last year."
Of human trafficking, Volunteer Team Leader Erin Walker of the Montana Chapter of Operation Underground Railroad said, "It's hard to look at this and to really look at it. It takes away some of our innocence to learn about it, but we have to be willing to make that sacrifice. Because, if we don't no one is going to help our children and our children are continuing to be at risk. So, we have to be willing to look at it and do something about it."
Walker said, "There are countless ways to get involved. I don't want anybody to feel like there is nothing they can do to fight this and to band together to help children. There is enough divisiveness and conflict and things that we can all argue about. There is one thing we can all stand together about- that's children. We can all join hands and say, 'We are going to protect our kids. We are going to rescue our kids.' That's what this whole walk is all about."