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June 09, 2016 10:05 PM

Tackling The Sex Trade In South Dakota

Call to Freedom helps raise awareness about human trafficking in South Dakota, and provides services to victims of the crime.

In 2015, the Executive Director of the group went to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally to get a first-hand look at the problem. There she met a young girl who inspired her to start a new program to help others. 

Whether people want to say it or not, sex trafficking is a problem in South Dakota.

"So many people in the community, I think this is really important, don't realize that trafficking is happening. If you are not educated and you're naive to it, you ignore it," said Call to Freedom Executive Director, Becky Rasmussen. 

To educate herself, Becky Rasmussen joined Call to Freedom at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally last year. The annual event is a notorious place for human trafficking. While there, a young woman caught her attention.

"I said 'Hi, my name is Becky. What is your name?' She said, 'My name is Marissa.' I just started connecting with her, talking to her. Throughout that conversation she began to cry. She said to me before I left, 'You have no idea what kind of day I've had. You have no idea what kind of day I've had.' And then Marissa was gone," said Rasmussen. 

While meeting with a national anti-trafficking group at the rally, Rasmussen asked to look at their database of over 100 young men and women who were expected to be in Sturgis. Inside, she found Marissa. 

"I said, 'I've met her. I found her. I met her last night.' They began to tell me that she was found. I said, 'She is not found. She is here,'" said Rasmussen. 

They realized, like so many others, Marissa had escaped trafficking once but was sucked back into the cycle.  

Now, Rasmussen is using the experience with Marissa to help others still trapped in sex trafficking.

"Supporting her financially from beginning to end to make sure she gets the help that she needs. Or even an individual that is a male, gets the help that they need to be successful once they transition out," said Rasmussen.

Marissa's Project is up and running, and you can find more information at the Call to Freedom website. 
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