Western SD Human Trafficking Task Force, brings awareness to Rapid City

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RAPID CITY, S.D. -

Over 3,000 people are kidnapped or forced into slavery every day, according to the nonprofit, Call to Freedom, which assists victims of human trafficking.

The local western South Dakota human trafficking task force raised awareness at an event at the old creamery building Saturday, to help change the number of people effected by human trafficking, with education and self-defense classes.

"It's always surprising to people in South Dakota to know that human trafficking happens here, they always envision that it happens in another country or a big city far away and it doesn't it happens in some of our smallest communities,” South Dakota Representative, Kristi Noem said.

The average age of a victim of human trafficking ranges from 9 to 11 years old, and it's also known to happen to children as young as three.

"The type of human trafficking we see most in this part of the country is sex trafficking, and in our area, we see more of what is referred to as homegrown trafficking, which is being trafficked by a boyfriend, a husband, or a family member,” explained Tess Franzen, the policy director for FREE International.

FREE International, stands for find, rescue, embrace, and empower.

"They will control them by drug addiction, they will control them by manipulation, and once they are in a controlled environment, they are forced into sex trafficking,” Executive Director for Call to Freedom, Becky Rasmussen.

Victims of human trafficking tend to give signs. Most are known to push away from family and friends or have abnormal behavior, but communication is key to prevent trafficking from happening.

Noem explains, "the more we talk about this with our kids, with our families and our communities, the more children we can prevent from being trafficked in the future."

For many victims, it isn't their first encounter with sexual abuse.

"98 percent of the survivors that we serve have had sexual abuse prior to trafficking situations,” Rasmussen said.

Many local cases of trafficking are federally prosecuted and awareness is growing to help solve the issue.

"Some of the laws we are working on in Washington D.C., about the 16 bills we have already passed through the House, that we want to see move through the Senate to the president’s desk so that they can start to help those victims,” Noem said.

Western South Dakota has a large influx of tourists during the summer, and specifically the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which are known as big targets for traffickers.  

"It's important that we work to stop it before it actually happens, if we can get these girls before they are even taken to trafficking, alert them and i think self-defense is so important, but also to be alert and aware of what’s going around us and especially with these big rally's and stuff like that that happens, we know this is a big opportunity for people to traffic,” explains Patrick Klein, the founder and director of Vision Beyond Borders.

The local western South Dakota human trafficking task force is one of five task forces nationwide invited to attend the national human trafficking conference to help combat this issue.

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