University Relations and Communications


December 21, 2017

 participants in tabling event


MSU Billings students raise awareness of human trafficking in Montana

Students partner with Yellowstone County Area Human Trafficking Task Force



University Relations and Communications, 657-2266


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Four MSU Billings students, Raechyl Case, Jennifer Downing, Derek Dorband, and Marya Pennington, in the Communications in Small Groups class, along with the Yellowstone County Area Human Trafficking Task Force, spoke with other students at a tabling event to raise awareness of the abundance of human trafficking happening locally.


The tabling event was part of a class project and a larger community endeavor at MSUB titled, “16 Days of Activism – Saying No to Violence Against Women” sponsored by MSUB’s Women’s and Gender Studies Center and the Zonta Club of Billings.  The four students approached the Director of the WGSC, Dr. Jennifer Lynn, about including a table to raise awareness of human trafficking in Billings. 


"I never realized how pervasive human trafficking is in Montana and in our own community,” shared Dr. Lynn. “I think it is important that we continue to raise awareness about this issue and talk about how we can prevent it." 


The MSUB students also contacted Penny Ronning, the co-founder and co-chair of the Yellowstone County Area Human Trafficking Task Force. Ronning spends much of her time speaking to the Billings community and travels across the state in order to promote awareness of human trafficking and how to combat it. 


Ronning commented, “With almost 1,000 Yellowstone County children in foster care, and more than 600 School District 2 children identified as homeless, Billings is vulnerable to traffickers. But the truth is that none of those children would be vulnerable if we didn’t have the buyers.” 


From October 2016 to October 2017, the number of online ads selling human beings for sex in Billings was over 19,226. That is more than triple the next largest amount of 5,133 ads found in Bozeman. 


“Men are buying sex trafficking victims here in Yellowstone County at a higher rate than the rest of the state,” Ronning stated. “We have a problem that needs to be addressed.”


The tabling event saw numerous students walk by and check out the task force awareness table and get information to help spread the word on trafficking. Ms. Ronning was a valuable presenter to have on hand where she spoke in depth about certain statistics and issues.


The Yellowstone County Area Human Trafficking Task Force was created in 2016 to help coordinate the efforts of law enforcement, service providers, and community groups and volunteers in Yellowstone County, Montana, and the surrounding areas in their work to investigate and prosecute traffickers, to assist victims of sex trafficking and labor trafficking, and to increase community awareness and prevent future trafficking. The task force now includes approximately 200 representatives from over 80 organizations and meets quarterly at the Billings Public Library.


For more information about ways to be involved with ending human trafficking in Montana, please contact Penny Ronning at, Stephanie Baucus at or follow the Human Trafficking Task Force – Yellowstone County Area, Montana on Facebook or Twitter.


To learn about the partnership between MSUB students and the task force, contact Melinda Tilton, University Lecturer, at 657-1728,