“If people knew better, they’d do better.”

That’s what Shannon Cox, executive director of Journey of Hope said during her human trafficking workshop on Feb. 13. The workshop was hosted by the American Civil Liberties Union at Weber State University, which aims to raise awareness about human trafficking in Utah.

In the workshop, Cox explained that human trafficking victims tend to be jailed under prostitution charges, rather than given the help and assistance needed to end the cycle. The goal of the workshop was to raise awareness about human trafficking, and also get the community thinking, caring and involved. Cox attributes sexual assault as a “primary predictor of girls’ entry into the juvenile justice system.”

Cox explained that the justice system looks at what crime was committed, but doesn’t take into consideration why or how the person got to the point of committing the crime. She believes that if those aspects are taken into account, and there was a system in place to assist women and girls who are finding themselves in what would seem to be an unbreakable cycle, then they would be able to cut down on repeat offenders because they’d be getting treatment and resources they need to get on their feet.

Anna Brower, the strategic communications manager for the ACLU, said she invited Cox and the Journey of Hope to spread knowledge and awareness about the issue of sex trafficking going on in Ogden.

When asked her opinion about the event, Shanice Gibson stated it was “easy to understand, but filled with statistics you wouldn’t believe. It really is up to the public to get involved.”

Gibson felt that once the workshop was said and done, she had the tools and resources to reach out to local legislature and push for reform to help with human trafficking victims who are being jailed instead of getting the help they need.

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