Valley Journal
Valley Journal

This Week’s e-Edition

Current Events

Latest Headlines

What's New?

Send us your news items.

NOTE: All submissions are subject to our Submission Guidelines.

Announcement Forms

Use these forms to send us announcements.

Birth Announcement

Human trafficking awareness urged

Lakeside couple works to shed light on invisible crime

Hey savvy news reader! Thanks for choosing local. You are now reading
1 of 3 free articles.

Subscribe now to stay in the know!

Already a subscriber? Login now

POLSON – As a victim of child sexual abuse, Grace Manchala has a heart for child victims of sex trafficking. 

Manchala spoke about her passion to shed light on the problem before the Lake County Pachyderm Club on Friday, May 26. 

Growing up in India, Manchala suffered from abuse from a relative and later married a man who ran escort services that used women ages 17-25, she said. 

So she divorced him, even though she had a young daughter at the time. “The Holy Spirit said I needed to get out. God said, ‘I’m going to be your provider’,” she said, so she took a “step of faith,” applied for the Youth with A Mission program and was accepted. 

“So much healing happened in my life. I’ve been with (YWAM) since 1993,” said Manchala, who later married YWAM Minister Raju Manchala. 

“My passion is to see we have new laws to protect our girls, boys and women who are vulnerable to the traffickers,” Grace said, noting that victims are not just used for sex but also for labor and their organs. 

Sex trafficking has come to Northwest Montana, she said, citing one example of a 9-year-old girl she met who had been plagued by evil spirits, was cutting herself and bulimic. The girl had been gang raped so she had trouble being in fellowship with people, Grace said. 

In an effort to combat such violence, the Manchalas held a five-hour training in Kalispell recently that involved 42 law enforcement officers and five chaplains. They will host a similar sex trafficking awareness seminar from 6-9 p.m. on Monday, June 12, at Polson High School.

The event will include presentations by Sgt. Jeanne Parker of the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office and Det. Guy Baker of the Missoula Police Department. It’s free and open to the public. 

Grace’s efforts have resulted in Montana’s Legislature passing two new laws in 2013: one that criminalizes the transport of people across state lines for sexual activity and another that makes it a crime to subject a child to sexual servitude. 

“Human trafficking is a very invisible crime and people don’t talk about it,” Grace said, adding that it takes time to see the results of new laws. 

Sometimes law enforcement officers aren’t able to prosecute because the girls won’t talk, Raju said. Law enforcement officers need to be trained how to investigate such crimes, he added. Teachers and healthcare workers also need to be trained to recognize the abuse, Grace said, adding that clues may include girls not being dressed properly for the weather or having different kinds of hairstyles, tattoos or heavy makeup. 

There are 300 homeless children in the Flathead area, Raju said. “Within 72 hours of children leaving their home they are approached for sexual activity,” he said. 

When one sees a child sex trafficking victim, she often will be smiling and “have a very good face,” Grace said. “You have to talk to them for a half hour before you recognize the signs.”

Referring to what she calls a $32 billion worldwide industry, Grace said many victims are not willing to come forward because of language barriers and fears of homelessness, isolation and joblessness. 

“The average age of girls forced into sexual slavery is 12, and they are out by age 18,” Grace said, but some are as young as 5 when they are trafficked. Oftentimes they are used for labor or have their organs harvested when their sexual slavery ends.

The U.S. is involved in the sex trafficking industry “because we have the money to pay,” she said. Natives of over 35 countries have been enslaved in the U.S. Typically it occurs in large cities or at vacation destinations. Half of them are children, she said. 

Traffickers prey on runaways, children and women from broken backgrounds, she said, adding that less than 2 percent are ever found again by their loved ones. 

Although such odds may seem daunting, Grace talks about making a difference “one pebble at a time.” 

In the next Legislative session in 2019, her goal is to require training for law enforcement and teachers on how to recognize or investigate sex trafficking, she said. A bill that was considered this year failed after labor unions opposed it, she said. 

For more information, call 406-885-0292 or go online at: 

Donations can be sent to: Grace Manchala, 501 Blacktail Road, Lakeside, MT 59922.

Sponsored by: