BILLINGS, Mont. –
Thursday was National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. U.S. Senator Steve Daines recognized the day by publicly supporting legislation to crack down on online sex trafficking. He called it a growing problem in the state of Montana and that we must take steps now to stop trafficking in the community. The legislation is called Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act. It eliminates federal liability protections for websites that knowingly assist, support or facilitate online sex trafficking. It also allows state and local prosecutors to prosecute websites that violate federal sex trafficking laws.
KULR-8 spoke with one sex trafficking survivor about the act and the senator’s position. Rebekah Begay was trafficked when she was 15-years-old. She was trafficked through a hotline in Georgia by a man. “He threatened my life, threatened the people I loved. If I didn’t do it, he was going to kill them.” Begay said she had to meet a quota each night, and eventually began luring in other girls. After a few months, she was sold to a police officer, and then was quickly sold to Russians who lived in a Georgia neighborhood. After that, Begay told KULR-8 the moment she realized she couldn’t be trafficked anymore, “I got out of the shower and I just felt like it was time for me. I didn’t want to have sex anymore for money. So I made up my own mind, and I was like I’ll take a bullet in the back of the head than have sex again.” When the man who owned Begay turned his back to her, she said, that was the moment she took off running. “I hid in a trashcan for a couple of hours,” stated Begay. She was able to get money to get to her friend’s house that evening. But even after escaping, Begay said she found herself calling the same hotline. She said she called it because she was desperate. “You don’t know how to get out of things. That’s the one thing I tell everybody when dealing with the girls that are coming out of human trafficking. It’s super hard to wrap your brain around trying to live in society, and not go back.” Begay said she failed at getting back into a normal society, and was picked up by the cartels. After being abused by the cartels and numerous other scenarios, she eventually made it back to Montana.
Begay told KULR-8 that sex trafficking in Montana has always been a problem and that it’s nothing new. She said, “I knew right when I moved here that there was a problem in Montana.” Begay stated she started researching about four years ago about what type of awareness they had in the state. Begay brought the Walk to Freedom to Billings a couple years ago. Begay said that it is cool to see U.S. Senator Daines get involved. “He’s got such an impact already because of who he is.”
“I’m happy that people are now becoming aware of the situation. And getting educated. That’s the biggest thing. Bringing it into the schools, educating your kids, knowing what Backpage is. Most of the time, these girls are being trafficked through Backpage.com,” Begay told KULR-8. But, the sex trafficking survivor also said, if Backpage.com is not the source of selling someone, another site will do the job. “If you have a demand, if you have a guy, a “John”, who wants to buy a girl, because he’s sex-addicted. You’re going to have a problem.” Begay said the law is going to help but it probably will not stop sex trafficking completely.
Begay said sex trafficking is happening across the state. From Billings, to Bozeman, to Missoula, and down Highway 200, sex trafficking happens everywhere. She told KULR-8 sex trafficking is not a gun problem, a drug problem, or even a sex problem. She called it a “people” problem. When asked what would help end trafficking of humans, Begay said people getting help for their problems will help end it. “I think the more the awareness is out there, more people need to be aware about it. And more people need to get involved in it and then, I can see it slowing down.” However, as Begay said, there will still be a drug problem. “The only difference is, is that drugs go away, but bodies don’t. Bodies can be reused, and that’s the sad part.” The survivor explained maybe in 30 or 40 years, the country might see a difference in sex trafficking. “Hopefully sooner. But I mean, I was trafficked 17 years ago. I know women that are older than I am that were trafficked. This has been an ongoing thing for years. People just never really wanted to put a label on it as “human trafficking.” It was just prostitution back then.”
Begay explained there is only one person, who is in the FBI, working on human trafficking cases in the state of Montana. Begay told KULR-8 that there are plenty of ways for citizens to learn more and to raise awareness about sex trafficking. “There are so many great resources out there, getting more people to come to the human trafficking task force meetings. Those are phenomenal.”