Legislature Considers Human Trafficking Law

Bob Ellis at the Dakota Voice has a piece about trafficking in South Dakota and measures the South Dakota legislature is considering in order to fight the increase in human trafficking cases in the area.

Most South Dakotans don’t think of such a thing going on here. After all we’re a quite, agricultural, family-values type state; we certainly don’t fit the profile of big-city crime often associated with human trafficking.

But as one Argus Leader article says, “Rural isolation and a sense of trust are factors in making girls from the Upper Midwest vulnerable to becoming entangled in sex trafficking.”

South Dakota also has Interstate-90 cutting all the way across the state east to west, which makes it a virtual certainty that modern-day sex slaves are being transported across our state to various destinations around the country.

South Dakota is part of what is known as the Midwest Pipeline where victims are recruited, often from among drug addicts and runaways.

He details the story of Marissa, first reported by The Argus Leader. Marissa was introduced to the circles as a stripper, but things quickly took a turn toward prostitution.

“He had other girls from other states, and they would just go from place to place,” she told The Argus Leader.

Girls like Marissa without money and recourse are incredibly easy to exploit. After an attempt by her pimp to sell a night with her for money, Marissa tried to escape. But alone with no money and refuge, Marissa eventually turned back to her pimp and ended up on a circuit that included strip clubs in Dallas, west of Gregory in south-central South Dakota, and the region. She made the rounds of hunting lodges and clubs flush with hunting season travelers, who frequent the area for hunting as well as sex tourism.

Eventually, Marissa managed to hide enough money from her pimp to buy a car and escape.

Now the South Dakota legislature is considering new laws to help prosecute this brand of slavery.

The legislature is divided: some believe enough laws exist to successfully prosecute these crimes. Others want to strengthen laws in place to specifically identify the offense of human trafficking and better fight it. Still some other legislators want to conduct a study of the problem before committing to specific legislation, and that could come in the form of a study panel over the summer.

“Unlike a drug that is sold just once, victims of sex or labor slavery are manipulated to repeat their service, making trafficking very profitable industry,” said Chris Hupke, Executive Director of the South Dakota Family Policy Council.

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