South Dakota Congresswoman Kristi Noem has introduced three bills into Congress to help crack down on sex trafficking. Today she met with several people in Sioux Falls during a round table discussion, who are not only trying to put a stop to this illegal activity, but also to help the victims.
Over 300,000 children in the United States are trafficked for sex every year, even here in KELOLAND.
"We've got a prolific problem on our reservations, we've got a problem during the Rally, I've heard of solicitations going on at our high schools here in Sioux Falls, things happening with our kids who are at risk," Noem said.
During a round table discussion, Noem talked and listened about the seriousness of young girls and boys being recruited into the sex trade.
"When I think of South Dakota moms sending their kids out the door every morning, they don't think they are going to be in trouble or have this potential threat to them when they go off to school," Noem said.
Those on the front lines of trying to help victims say they're usually groomed at an early age; promised money, gifts and companionship.
"I don't know of any woman who wakes up in the morning and says I'm going to grow up to be a prostitute, prostitution is something that is forced," Kim St. Johns of My Sister Friend's House said.
They all say more needs to be done to help victims get out of their situations and give them a safe place to stay.
One of Noem's bills would establish a National Human Trafficking Hotline.
Lt. David McIntire of the Street Crimes Unit of the Sioux Falls Police Department says his officers spend time talking to civic groups, educators and students about the seriousness of the problem.
"Education is key, not only to successfully enforcing it, because it puts more eyes out there, there are only so many police, you need a whole community watching for it," McIntire said.
Noem helped introduce the End Sex Trafficking Act (H.R. 2805) last summer, which makes the law clear that criminals who solicit or obtain the services of a trafficking victim should be arrested, prosecuted and convicted.
Noem has also co-sponsored the Stop Exploitation through Sex Trafficking Act (H.R. 3610) and the Child Sex Trafficking Data and Response Act (H.R. 2744). If enacted, H.R. 3610 would establish a national safe harbor law, which requires that minors engaged in prostitution are treated as trafficking victims, not criminals.