Shared Hope International slams Wyoming in a recent report card, claiming the state ranks in the bottom tier when it comes to protecting and responding to youth trafficking survivors.

They released a report card yesterday looking at all 50 states. Tennessee was the only state that received an 'A.' Florida came in second place overall with an 85.5%

The organization began grading states more than ten years ago. In 2020, they took on a multi-year project to research statutory provisions for child and youth victims of trafficking and how states protect survivors, particularly through the development and funding of Safe Harbor laws -- legislation that would prohibit minors from being arrested and prosecuted for prostitution charges.

The report card has a rubric with six categories: criminal provisions, identification of and response to victims, continuum of care, access to justice for trafficking survivors, tools for a victim-centered criminal justice response, and prevention and training. The organization found the Cowboy State lacking in all areas.

They claim Wyoming has many gaps to be filled if they are to do better in the future. They summarized that Wyoming does not protect all minors from prosecution and victims are not provided access to resources necessary to address trauma and promote healing. Finally, Wyoming's definition of trafficking requires third-party control, preventing sexually exploited children from gettting help if they are unable to identify their trafficker.

Terri Markham, the director of Uprising, a nonprofit organization bringing awareness to human trafficking in Wyoming, says that she thinks an 'F' is a harsh judgement. And while Wyoming could certainly do better, it's not necessarily fair to say we don't have resources for victims of human trafficking. "Our state cares about protecting children," says Markham.

Often when we see a child trafficking case in Wyoming it's prosecuted as sexual abuse of a minor or child abuse. Further, there are already laws that protect children in Wyoming from being prosecuted for prostitution -- minors cannot legally give consent for commercial sex. Markham does, however, support being more specific when it comes to stating that a third party, or a pimp, does not have to be defined to identify a human trafficking victim. She has advocated for this at the State Legislature, but with little success. In some cases, there is no trafficker. There are children who are exchanging money and other things for sex.

Markham is very familiar with the annual report cards. She looks at them every year and says that two years ago Wyoming actually faired significantly better according to their grading system. After states across the nation began to improve their laws to protect children, the organization revised the rubric with higher standards. Markham sees where they're coming from and "hopefully, it'll light a fire under our butts." While a failing grade might be a tad inflated, she thinks Wyoming still ranks low comparitively; a lot can be done to help protect survivors better. Better after care, for one thing.

Here is a video from the Uprising website that argues for more barriers to prevent traffickign in the first place:

Nonprofit agency Uprising shares information about human trafficking and exploitation

Gallery Credit: Kolby Fedore, Townsquare Media

35th Annual Teddy Bear Tea in Downtown Casper


Gallery Credit: Kolby Fedore, Townsquare Media