Editorial note: This story is part one of a three part series on human trafficking in Utah. Find part two here, and part three here.
SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah college student who was a human trafficking victim is sharing her story, as authorities try to get more of us to recognize the signs and help stop the problem.
Coco Berthman was born into human trafficking in Germany and says her own family did it to her.
“It is really common for children to be trafficked within their own family, because the younger the child, the more money the trafficker receives,” she said.
“Rape, gang rape, torturing, waterboarding, shame, forced drug use — these are the usual things they do,” she said.
She escaped by running away when she was 15. Now, ten years later, she is a student at LDS Business College and a board director for Arise Project for Humanity. The organization tries to help victims, and educate others on what to look for.
“It touches all business, all industry,” said Berthman. “Transportation, hospitality, entertainment. And human trafficking is not a foreign issue. The biggest demand for child sex is in the US.”
At the Utah Attorney General’s Office, Daniel Strong is one of 8 full-time investigators assigned to uncover and prosecute human trafficking
“Trafficking for adult victims, is compelling them to work whether in sex or any form of labor, through force, fraud or coercion,” he explained. And he says it often happens right in someone’s own community.
“We may see it and not even know it. A trafficker could walk by with their victim and you wouldn’t know, until you hear their story,” said Strong.
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