Sex trafficking in Alaska and youth vulnerability

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by Pearl-Grace Rasmussen

 ANCHORAGE -- "An online enterprise showcasing women in the commercial sex industry." 

That's what Special Crimes Unit and the Alaska State Troopers say Amber Batts was arrested and accused for.

Batts allegedly marketed women from Anchorage, Juneau, Fairbanks, Mat-Su and the Kenai Peninsula for sex acts and received portions of the proceeds.

This has the community and the Covenant House concerned about sex trafficking in Alaska.

Josh Louwerse is an Outreach Program Coordinator at the Covenant House in Anchorage. 

His work offers services like housing trafficked youth.

"We definitely have an eye out for those who are or have been trafficked," said Louwerse.  "We know that it's one of the hardest things to do to walk away from that lifestyle. it hurts partly because they start so young."

Louwers says that youth are trafficked as young as 12-years-old, and Alaska is a target because of its geographical location and rural communities.

He says that the things the Covenant House have  experienced with youth is that youth are targeted for recruitment from villages because that is when they are the most vulnerable.

Over a 3 month period of research the Covenant House has conducted, Alaska has 25 known youths that have been victims of sex trafficking.

All but one are female and 100 percent of those are diagnosed with a mental illness.

"The key is they are vulnerable for different reasons," Louwerse adds. "The key is vulnerability, and they can't get out."

For any questions or concerns about youth trafficking call the Covenant House at (907) 727-1255.