Sioux Falls, SD
Governor Dennis Daugaard declared August as Human Trafficking Awareness Month in South Dakota, and the awareness of these crimes extends well beyond law enforcement and political leaders. Others want to know how bad the situation truly is.
"The question becomes 'What is the role of the church?' Really, I think this is a role, when we're talking about human trafficking, that maybe in some ways only the church can play," U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson said.
The nearly 150-member audience at First Assembly of God in Sioux Falls took in as much as they could. Every statistic, every story and every detail that makes human trafficking a major concern.
"One of the things that would be a great disservice is to say that a lot of this stuff only happens at the rally or it happens during hunting season at lodges in our state, which it does, but it happens in our high schools and we have to think about it every single day," Rep. Kristi Noem said.
Significant progress is being made by both law enforcement through sting operations and legislators through possible new laws and resources, but they aren't the only ones that can make a difference.
"When you talk about it, people will reach out and ask you to help them. That is what I want all of you to do," Noem said.
Noem and Johnson both feel that one of the first waves of defense against human trafficking is through members of the faith-based community, and all they would need to do is spread a word of hope and encouragement.
"I do believe that whatever role that we have, whatever job that we have, whatever we fill our days with, that there are people around us that we can touch their lives and help protect them," Noem said.
"In many ways, you are the only ones, the best ones, at reaching out to the forgotten in our community, to welcome these people into houses of worship and also to care for them," Johnson said.
The event tonight was organized by the Family Heritage Alliance who have a task force specifically made to combat human trafficking all over South Dakota. If you would like more information about their efforts, you can visit the Family Heritage Alliance website.