Human trafficking victim now a survivor of sex slavery - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Human trafficking victim now a survivor of sex slavery

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Human trafficking, people sold for sex against their will, is a problem here in South Dakota.

Many don't realize it doesn't always mean a trip across state lines. It happened to one young woman in her own home.

KSFY News reporter spoke with a woman we call "Jane." We've disguised her face and her voice to protect her identity.

It's been said children are our greatest natural resource, but unfortunately some see children as "their" greatest resource.

"Jane" said "it was something that kind of happened behind my mom's back, I don't think she was completely fully aware that it was going on, it wasn't until everything in the end broke wide open."

"Jane's" mother's boyfriend provided them with a home. But his generosity proved too good to be true.

When you're that young you get kind of paid for in toys, I had a whole upper floor of so much toys I can't even imagine. you know, you don't even fathom kids having it but I didn't have a toy room, I had a toy floor," "Jane" said.

And the cost of all of those toys?  A 4-year-old girl's innocence.

"Part of my life I was more sold for sex, and the other part of my life I was starving, and hungry and homeless, and cold, and neglected and nobody was there," "Jane" said.

"When my mom wasn't home, she was away at school, it started off slow and it was by the half an hour, people that had more money spent more and so they would take more time," "Jane" said.

Ten years of "Jane's" childhood are frozen in time.

"From the day it started, I was 4, the time it ended and amazing people stepped into my life and the healing started, I was 14," "Jane" said.

Which is when life at home for "Jane" and her mother took a turn for the worse.

Part of his power complex was that he was recording everything. everything was bugged, and when he threatened to take her life, then we fled," "Jane" said.

Most of us may have happy childhood memories but Jane's experience is not unique.

Every year here in South Dakota , sex traffickers prey on unsuspecting women and children.

And for anyone else with a story like "Jane's" it may be difficult for them to realize they're not alone but there's hope and there's help.

Here in Sioux Falls, victims of human trafficking can seek protection from the streets and find emergency shelter behind closed doors at My Sister Friends' House.  

My Sister Friends' House. shelter advocate Sarah Johnson said "the daily fears they have every day, some women can't put their foot outside shelter, they're not ready to do that, so getting up and having a cup of coffee with the women is one way that we help them."

The shelter offers the comforts of home for women who have no where else to go to feel safe.

My Sister Friends' House legal advocate Kerry Stephenson said "they're considered property. This is a product. This is how they make their money, and they're not going to want to lose that. They're not viewed as human, they're viewed as something to make money, and if they see that's going to get taken away, there's  a high risk of harm that can come to everybody with it."

For the women of My Sister Friends' House, there's a good sense of joy in protecting others.

My Sister Friends' House director Kimberly St. John said "we don't do this for the money. We do this because we want to see change. We need to see change. Our children are growing up in such horrible conditions that even the federal government has taken notice."

And U.S. attorney Brendan Johnson has taken notice.

"They give the women a safe place to go, they give them shelter, resources because it's very difficult for us to prosecute a case when our victims leave the state," Johnson said.

Johnson has a reassuring message for those sold against their will.

"If you've been part of this human trafficking circle, you're a victim, you're not a criminal, and we need folks to feel comfortable, coming forward and sharing their story with us so that we can bring their perpetrator to justice," Johnson said.

"Jane" is now 28. a mother. and married.  What is it they say heals all wounds?

"Time, and realizing that not everybody is out to be , is not out to get me, I had to realize that I was worth it, that I was worthy of love, that people can love me, that I'm ok to love<" "Jane said.

And many say spreading awareness is the best way to make that happen.

This can end and will end," St. John said.

If you see someone who looks like they could be the victim of sex trafficking, you should not approach. 

You could put them or yourself in danger because you're threatening the perpetrator's livelihood.

The best thing to do is call the police.

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