Trafficked to Treasured

In her book, local woman Kelly Patterson talks about her experiences in a sex trafficking ring in South Dakota.

Kelly talks about how her nightmare all began. “I was in small-town South Dakota, they got a hold of me at age six. I had been previously molested at age four by someone close to the family, and so the people involved in the trafficking ring were also close to my family and unknown to my family that they were involved in this. So at age six once they were able to get their hands on me, they began schooling me. Basically, schooling involves a lot of threats and a lot of mind games, a lot of confusion confusing messages … making sure you understand it’s your fault. They tell you that they will harm your family or harm you and seeing other people harmed so you realize that they mean what they’re saying.”

Kelly goes on to say that the perpetrators would frequently and methodically groom her and by age nine, was photographed and filmed for pornographic uses. And age 17, she was getting into trouble and kicked out of her family home- that is when the trafficking ring took full control of her life for the next 5 years.

She attempted escape many times, each time the punishment was more horrific. Kelly wants the community to be aware that it is happening all around us and to be vigilant.

“This happens here – this isn’t just during the Sturgis Rally; it isn’t just during pheasant season, because when you’re in a trafficking ring, this is year around. And they could be your neighbor, they could be your family member, they could be your co-worker and you wouldn’t know it.  I worked a day job and still had to do these things for the evenings and the weekends for the ring,” says Kelly.

Kelly hopes traffickers and those who pay for sex see harsher punishments in the legal system and taking any blame off the victims.

Kelly did eventually get out of the ring after 5 years, and is now a survivor advocate, consultant and speaker. She is taking her knowledge and experiences to move the state toward ending the epidemic.

She says, “If you can save one life, if it can make a one family look at that rebellious teen differently, if it can make us have awareness or see something wrong somewhere and make that phone call- be daring enough to say “what if.” Law enforcement is behind us, they say “see something, say something,” and if you’re wrong – no harm done, but if you’re right – you may have saved someone.”

Click here for more on the 2nd annual Human Trafficking Conference in Pierre.

For more on Kelly’s Book Trafficked to Treasured, click here. 

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News