The issue of human trafficking for sex is becoming more of a problem all across the upper Midwest. From the oil fields of North Dakota to our neighborhoods here in South Dakota. A symposium was held in Sioux Falls, where a sobering warning was issued.
A meeting like this can look like an academic exercise. But the risks associated with human trafficking are real; the problem is happening right here in Sioux Falls and if you doubt that, listen to this. "When parents send their kids out the door every morning I don't think they realize that they're in jeopardy of being drawn into an industry such as this." South Dakota Congresswoman Kristi Noem hosted this "Justice Against Slavery" event because she says we all need to be aware of this problem....it can no longer be something only lawmakers and police talk about.
"It's about a human being thinking they have the right, the privilege, to control another human being." Kerry Stephenson is with "My Sister Friend's House", a protective shelter for women and children in Sioux Falls we highlighted a little more than three weeks ago. She tells us they are helping, in increasing numbers, women who have been lured into a world where they end up being sold for sex. "It goes on more often than they realize. They need to understand that we need to reach out to people, to our youth and let them know to speak out in case they get approached."
It's tough to investigate human trafficking: It's always been done in secret but the Internet increases that secrecy. Lieutenant Dave McIntire is with the Sioux Falls Police Department. "Until we see a societal change in the awareness of human trafficking that we will not reach that level of cultural change needed to confront the problem."
Part of that societal change involves people speaking up. Police say it's about victims finding the courage to break away...and every people like you and I..speaking up if we see someone in a situation that doesn't seem right.