DENVER (CBS4) – Students from six Denver-area high schools are fighting back against sex trafficking.
Hundreds of students rallied together at Valor Christian High School Saturday afternoon to tackle the world of human trafficking.
“Trafficking is so deceitful in the way that it occurs, and no one knows that it’s happening until it’s already happened,” said Joe Roberts, a sophomore at Heritage High School, and a leader of the Saturday’s SHIFT conference.
Organizers say the average age of trafficking is 12 to 14 years old. They say crime statistics in Colorado show Denver is among the top four sex trafficked cities in the nation.
“It’s happening everywhere,” said Sara Bratton, a speaker at the SHIFT conference. I did ask (an FBI agent) at one point in time, ‘Where is it the worst?’ And he said, ‘Anywhere there’s men.’”
Bratton, director of Denver’s Hope Academy, a school for exploited girls, spoke out against the abuse.
“The people who are purchasing these kids are primarily upper middle class white men, married with families, 40 to 55 years old,” Bratton told CBS4. “They’re people who work in the tech center, they work downtown. It’s not some sleazy guy on the street that’s purchasing these kids — it’s dads.”
As they work to shift from awareness to action, leaders say it’s important to spot the signs sex trafficking.
“Last year, an FBI agent came and spoke to a local Highlands Ranch High School, and he told them about the different signs of trafficking, and what to look for and what a brothel could look like,” said SHIFT attendee Caitlyn Koerner. “At the end of it, a girl stood up and talked to the FBI agent and she said, ‘I think my dad actually might own a brothel,’ because there were foreign exchange students coming in and out (of the home).”
While SHIFT is a yearly event, organizers have started SHIFT Connected, a monthly event for students and resources to stay connected.
“When kiddos are sleeping in class, there’s probably a reason they’re sleeping in class,” Bratton said. “When you see a kid come in with nice, new clothes or jewelry, or things you know they can’t afford, there’s probably a reason.”
For more information on SHIFT, head to their website shiftjustice.com.