State experts on sex trafficking in Spokane: “It’s hidden in plain sight.” | News


Editor’s Note: This is a developing story and will be updated accordingly.

How serious of an issue is sex trafficking in the Spokane area?

“From our perspective, it’s a very serious problem – both labor and sex trafficking,” Rick Torrance, the Managing Director for the Office of Crime Victims Advocacy (WA Dept. of Commerce) said.

Torrance said it’s hard to quantify how bad the issue truly is because

“When people ask ‘How bad is this? What kind of numbers can you give me?’, we have to say it’s really difficult to do that for a couple of major reasons. One of those is traffickers will use things against the folks they’re trafficking, whether it’s immigration status or if it’s somebody (who is maybe a young person) that has fled a problematic situation at home. So, they’re a minor and they don’t trust authority. All of those things feed in to the real challenges to identify and get all the way through, where someone would actually be charged and convicted of trafficking.”

Torrance said he and his peers often look to data from The Polaris Project, which claims to have the largest-known data set on human trafficking in North America.

The Polaris Project also produced a report titled ‘Human Trafficking in Illicit Massage Businesses,” which highlighted the complexities of the issue for victims, advocates, and law enforcement.

“It’s not to say that every business that’s always in the news is doing bad things,” Stephanie Pratt, the Victims of Crime Program Manager with WA’s Dept. of Commerce, said. “There are some very socially responsible businesses out there. And then there are some folks that make money off of others because of structural inequities, systemic racism, and other issues. So, it’s pretty complicated.”

Rep. Jenny Graham, who serves in WA’s 6th Legislative District, said she will be focusing a large part of her attention in the upcoming legislative session to fight for trafficking victims. She also plans to advocate for more state resources towards stopping trafficking.

“It’s hidden in plain sight,” Pratt said. “It’s so nuanced and layered. Then with all of the barriers for people to talk about it or come forward or access, it’s tricky… This is all about making money and traffickers know how to play the game, unfortunately, very well. They will do what it takes to make that money.”

While unconfirmed rumors of sex trafficking plots stoked Spokane in 2020, victim advocates have strongly stated that trafficking is a reality in the Lilac City.

“Human trafficking takes place everyday in Spokane,” a victim’s advocate¬†told KHQ in 2019.

“It is happening. It doesn’t sound good. I know it isn’t what people want to hear, but it is occurring,” Pratt said.

Editor’s Note: This is a developing story and will be updated accordingly.


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