MISSOULA – January is designated as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and Human Trafficking Awareness Day is coming up on January 11.
Seattle-based human trafficking prevention expert Peter Qualliotine came to UM as part of his statewide tour to educate professionals and the public on preventative measures to take in order to end human trafficking.
“So, really thinking about the power of education and saying ‘hey we want to have an event for professionals’ and then also an event for community members that can learn a little bit more about the root causes of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation,” explained Missoula Human Trafficking Task Force event coordinator Kat Werner.
The training was split into two separate sessions — a four hour one for law enforcement, medical, and social service professionals — and an evening session that was an open Q & A for the public.
“There’s a lot that we can learn…in terms of changing the way that we understand the issue get educated, find out about sex trafficking and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation. What the roots are, what we can do to prevent it moving forward,”
The trainings focused on Commercial Sexual Exploitations, (CSE) which is a practice of gender-based violence.
One of the main focuses of bringing Qualliotine was his success in focusing on holding the buyers and pimps accountable, rather than the women who are being used for exploitation.
“So we need to engage man, it’s predominantly man who buys sex. Being able to get them to understand the harm of this practice and how it’s headed in from their awareness,” Qualliotine said.
“I think part of the nature of this victimization is there is a silencing aspect to it, and like other forms of gender-based violence, there is a blaming of the victim that happens. I’m holding her to account. Rather than looking at the buyer’s behaviors,” he continued.
“And so that simple twist that change of who we’re looking at and where the problem lies because certainly there are problems experience with people in prostitution are significant but they would be nonexistent if it weren’t for the buyers,” Qualliotine concluded.
While there’s still a ton of work to do, Qualliotine knows we are headed in the right direction.
“It was only people in prostitution who were arrested nobody looked at the buyer’s, nobody looked at the pimps. They were held responsible for things happening to them,” he explained.
“And we have here today law enforcement, service providers, educators from the health professional who are coming together to try and recognize what we can all do working together to approach this issue in a new way,” Qualliotine continued. “And that is something I could have never seen coming 30 years ago.”
Reporting by Jack Ginsburg for MTN News