Nationwide, human trafficking is a $2.5 billion to $3 billion industry, according to the Human Trafficking Task Force in Yellowstone County.
National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Awareness month helps to bring out that information.
According to the local task force, the average age of a victim is 12 to 17 years old in the U.S. and 15 to 27 years old in Billings.
Females and males are both victims of sex trafficking.
The advocates say there is a misconception and stigma that victims are part of the problem.
“Human trafficking is defined as using force, fraud, or coercion in order to obtain sex or work from an individual,” said Carrie Fleming, a member on the task force’s prevention and awareness committee. “So any vulnerabilities that exist between substance abuse or runaways or unstable housing mental health concerns, things like that can be exploited to use somebody in a way that sort of just perpetuates a cycle for them to remain under.”
Next week, the task force will show the film “Shattered Dreams: Sex Trafficking in America.”
That will be available on Jan. 28 at 8 p.m. on the Human Trafficking Awareness in Yellowstone County Facebook page.