Advocates raise awareness about human trafficking in South Dakota
RAPID CITY, S.D. — January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention month and many local advocates are working to raise awareness in South Dakota.
On Saturday, Freedom’s Journey joined with other local agencies at Main Street Square to host “Freedom Skate.” Visitors could skate for free and enjoy refreshments while also learning about the issue from guest speakers.
During the event, Freedom’s Journey Executive Director Tess Franzen outlined how there are a number of circumstances that can leave victims susceptible to trafficking.
“Whatever that vulnerability is, whether its someone who doesn’t have healthy connections, someone who is estranged from a family, a single mom, or a kid coming out of foster care, or someone who lives in poverty and has drug addictions- all of these are factors that can lead to a greater increase in vulnerability.”
The Western South Dakota Human Trafficking Task Force was also present at the event to answer questions and discuss the realities of trafficking in the state.
The U.S. State Department estimates that human trafficking is a 150 billion dollar industry globally, and while South Dakota is one of the least populated states, the crime still makes its mark here.
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, there have been 557 reported calls concerning human trafficking in South Dakota since 2007, and 80 total cases. Many of those cases had multiple victims, with 358 survivors, 135 of which were categorized as suffering from severe incidences of trafficking involving force, fraud and coercion.
For information and resources regarding human trafficking, such as helplines, shelters and advocacy services, visit https://dps.sd.gov/victims-services/victims-assistance-program/human-trafficking.