RAPID CITY, S.D. — Mayor Steve Allender has issued a proclamation naming January as “Human Trafficking Awareness Month” in Rapid City. The goal is to bring awareness and encourage citizens to get involved in ending this common practice.
Human trafficking when an adult, child or infant is forcibly recruited, harbored or transported for the purpose of involuntary exploitation, commercialized sexual exploitation, slavery, illicit adoption, removal of organs or forced labor services. 40 million people worldwide are affected by human trafficking, including an estimated 10 million children. It was made a federal crime in 2000 with the passage of the Victims of Human Trafficking and Violence Protection Act.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline statistics for South Dakota identified 65 victims, 16 traffickers and five trafficking businesses in 2019. More than 375 calls have been received from people in South Dakota since 2007.
“Law enforcement has increased efforts to investigate, prosecute and curb human trafficking in South Dakota, which is vulnerable due to trafficking on interstate highways, due to high demand, due to vulnerable population groups and due to internet advertising,” reads the proclamation.
The South Dakota Victims’ Services Program help fund shelters, including Working Against Violence, Inc., that provide numerous services to victims of violent crimes, including human trafficking.
“I commend the work of Freedom’s Journey, as well as groups such as the Red Ribbon Skirt Society in bringing awareness and educating the public on the human trafficking issue and how the issue impacts communities and states throughout the nation. Nobody is exempt,” said Mayor Allender. “I also applaud the efforts and work of organizations that provide needed support, advocacy and services to victims.”
Friday’s Freedom Expo will include a panel of experts discussing human trafficking. Attendees will learn about Freedom Journey’s efforts to help victims and survivors, learn about human trafficking in the region from those involved in combating trafficking, obtain helpful information on how to reduce the risk and not become a victim of human trafficking. In addition, attendees will learn the possible indicators of human trafficking, and the cultural factors creating an environment where human trafficking can exist and increase, among other topics.
Treasured Lives, a newly-formed, survivor-led and survivor-focused anti-trafficking nonprofit, is also hosting a fundraising event on Saturday at the Civic Center. Bazzel Baz is the headliner; he’s a public speaker on human trafficking and the founder of the Association For The Recovery of Children. Baz is also a former CIA Officer, actor, author, anti-terrorism consultant, and former U.S. Marine counter-terrorism officer. The money raised at the event will to go toward building a safe house in the state for survivors of sex trafficking and their children.