Here's some news Sarah Palin never mentioned on her Alaskan reality show: Alaska Native women and girls are facing a dire traffickingproblem. Sex-traffickers often lure the victims to Anchorage, where they're separated from their local support network and then coerced into the sex trade. Investigators say that this trend has been on the rise for the past couple years, and they fear Alaska Natives are targeted due to their "versatile" look—which makes them easier to advertise on the Internet as Hawaiian or Asian. So how can both the Alaskan and tribal governments stop failing these girls? Two words: prosecution and education. Tell Governor Sean Parnell and the state legislature to strengthen Alaska state laws to mirror federal penalties and work with tribal governments to fund a trafficking-specific education program for families.
Amnesty International has estimated that Native American women are 2.5 times more likely than other American women to experience sexual assault in their lifetime. Previously victimized women and girls are prime targets for traffickers. Statistics show that within 48 hours of being on the street, one in three of runaways will be drawn into prostitution. The trafficking victims are then reluctant to seek help, due to psychological abuse, and an unwillingness to tell their small village communities what has happened to them. This is the perfect storm for girls to end up working for pimps like 52-year-old Sabil Mumin Mujahid, who was charged last year for operating a sex trafficking ring. The FBI overheard him saying: "I marry bitches. Bigamy is part of my game. You understand that?"
Alaska's state trafficking laws are relatively weak. Currently, authorities often choose to prosecute pimps under federal sex trafficking laws, as the state law only allows for prosecution of trafficking if the victim is transferred across state lines. Unsurprisingly, this system isn't working. An investigator toldThe Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that even when girls are separated from their pimp and provided social services, the prosecutions are few and far between. Governor Parnell and the state legislature need to strengthen Alaska's state laws to mirror the federal laws, and get traffickers off the street for good. This legislation can't come soon enough.
It is also essential that a high-quality trafficking education program is put in place. A common theme among local villages is that families simply don't believe it can happen to them. By educating families on the dangers of trafficking, girls will be more apt to ask for help, and families will be better equipped to monitor potentially volatile domestic situations. It's great that investigators and organizations like Justice for Native Children have already worked to educate villages about this issue — but the dialogue can't end there. A state-wide government funded education program — developed in conjunction with tribal governments — would go a long way in helping prevent trafficking crimes.
Sarah Palin notoriously made a speech blunder in 2008, stating that: "Women across the globe deserve the same right rights that American women enjoy, including freedom for sex trafficking." Jokes aside, if Palin turned around and looked in her own backyard, she'd realize that Alaska Native women and girls don't necessarily have that freedom — not yet. That's why you should send this petition to Governor Parnell and the state legislature today.