January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Police Detective Guy Baker said sex trafficking occurs everywhere, even in Missoula.

“There’s a misconception that this doesn’t happen here, and that it only happens in other countries or in big cities in other states, but in fact it is happening in Montana and in Missoula,” said Baker, who works with a special FBI task force to combat prostitution and human trafficking. “People commonly don’t see the difference between prostitution and sex trafficking where, simply put, its choice. A prostitute is engaging in commercial sex at their own volition for their own benefit, where a victim of trafficking is someone who is being compelled to engage in commercial sex and somebody else is benefiting from that.”

Baker said the internet is the trafficking site of choice for those involved in the sex trade.

“The vast majority of trafficking is occurring online,” he said. “There’s a variety of websites such as Back Page or My Provider dot com, or there’s about half a dozen sites that solicit customers for prostitution in which trafficking victims are acting in that capacity.”

Baker said the toll can be significant for those who work to stem the tide of sex slavery and human trafficking, but there are some rays of hope.

“Probably one of the biggest compliments I ever received was from a trafficking victim a few years ago,” he said. “In talking to her after she never came back to Montana and I told her she didn’t have to come back to testify which was she was very afraid to do. She started crying and said, ‘You know Detective Baker, I don’t know where I’d be today if you had not come into my life,’ so little things like that and one individual helped brings a great sense of satisfaction for me, so it’s well worth it.”

According to a recent report, of the 30 million victims of sex trafficking worldwide, 25 million are children.

Baker said there will be a conference in Missoula on March 28 and 29 to address the issue of sex slavery and human trafficking.

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