January 24, 2020

Human trafficking: homegrown in S.D. - Daily Leader Extra : Local News

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Human trafficking: homegrown in S.D.

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Posted: Wednesday, March 21, 2018 3:25 pm

A small group of community members learned on Tuesday night that human trafficking is not a crime that happens somewhere else.

Per capita, South Dakota has the second highest number of trafficking-related calls in the United States, and more convictions for human trafficking than any other state, according to Julie Klinger, director of operations for Call to Freedom in Sioux Falls.

"Although it's been happening in this country for some time, it's just starting to get noticed," she told AAUW members and guests.

Call to Freedom helps victims and survivors navigate a healthy path out of human trafficking. Since 2015, the organization has helped 108 women to recover their lives.

Klinger shared both information and videos to help attendees understand the issue. Human trafficking occurs when an individual is forced to do something in exchange for something else. It can involve domestic work as well as sex trafficking or prostitution.

Refugee and immigrant populations are vulnerable, but young women being raised on South Dakota's reservations are also vulnerable. Many don't even realize they are trafficked, Klinger said.

"They're not aware of what it is," she said. They think they are loved, that the man who is trafficking them is taking care of them. "They're not a slave. That's someone else's story," Klinger said they tell themselves.

Most young women are between the ages of 11 and 14 when they enter trafficking. Often a young woman is groomed, and the relationship will begin as a dating relationship.

When the man begins to traffic her, "she can't get out or they'll hurt her family," Klinger said. However, sometimes girls are kidnapped, offered a ride home and then removed from their communities.

When a woman is rescued, the recovery process may take years as a result of the trauma she has experienced, according to Klinger. Safe shelter is only her first need.

"Some of the women stay in South Dakota, depending on the safety risk," she said. However, some women must be transferred out of state for their own safety. The trafficker will threaten her if he has access to her.

Once a woman is safe, a variety of services will be necessary to help her recover her life, Klinger said. Alcohol and drug rehabilitation is often the first step, since traffickers often use these substances to control a woman, or she may use them to cope with the repeated trauma.

Counseling, legal advocacy and the opportunity to learn basic life skills like budgeting and socialization, as well as job skills, may all be necessary. In addition, a woman can have emotional triggers which cause her to regress.

"I've never seen such trauma in a victim," Klinger said, regarding the women who are assisted through Call to Freedom.

In making this observation, she is speaking as someone who has more than 20 years of experience in social services and has worked with numerous clients, including those who have been abused.

South Dakota has two high-trafficking events: the Sturgis Rally and hunting season. During pheasant hunts, the trafficking is occurring at private lodges and is harder to identify than at the Sturgis Rally, according to Klinger.

"Where you have a large population of men, there will be a market," Brendan Johnson, former U.S. District Attorney, said in one of the videos: "Hidden in Plain Sight: Exposing Sex Trafficking in South Dakota."

As an example, Klinger referenced the large number of arrests for human trafficking -- 64 -- which were made in Minneapolis this year at the Super Bowl. In that case, the arrests involved what is known as transit trafficking.

"The victims are brought in from different parts of the country," Klinger explained.

Sioux Falls, at the intersection of Interstate 90 and Interstate 29, is known as the hub of transit trafficking in the Midwest.

However, much of the human trafficking in South Dakota is homegrown -- family members sexually abusing and selling their own children.

"It has to do with poverty; it has to do with alcoholism," Madison resident Patty Bordeaux Nelson said in the video, "Hidden in Plain Sight."

Klinger described it as "the most heartbreaking" form of human trafficking. Sometimes it begins as an opportunity to earn a little money, but often drugs or alcohol is involved.

Klinger provided additional information and fielded questions. She also spoke about ways they could help, not only with donations but also with prayer.

"If you're faith-based," she said, "we'll take any prayer we can get."

More information about Call to Freedom and human trafficking in South Dakota can be found at calltofreedom.org.

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