SIOUX FALLS, S.D (KELO) –Various organizations around the world and here in KELOLAND are working hard to help victims of human trafficking escape their scenarios and start over.

Eight years ago, Mary came to Call to Freedom with one purpose.

“I walked through the doors. I came in and I served,” Mary, Survivor Mentor, said.

She wanted to work with victims of human trafficking.

“I sat down with other survivors, and I chatted with them. We developed like a friendship and going over there to see what they all needed. Through that course, I actually really connected with all of them, and I understood what they were saying,” Mary said.

Mary had a revelation while working with other survivors, one she shared with Executive Director Becky Rasmussen.

“I said, do you guys understand that I- was I trafficked? And they said yes, that they understood, that they knew a little bit of my journey. But I hadn’t self-identified, and nor was it ever discussed, years prior.” Mary said.

Mary’s story began when she was 18, when she moved to New York to be a nanny.

“I thought the world was great and I was going to experience life outside of the borders of South Dakota,” Mary said.

It was there she met her future trafficker and fell victim to a sex and labor trafficking ring.

“A trafficker sees us as a commodity,” Mary said. “In my journey, and in my past, they were looking for a Midwestern girl, and they found it.”

For the next several years she had no control over her life. All her decisions were made by her trafficker.

“We don’t know what day-to-day is. We know what day to day is on how to survive for that day,” Mary said.

This continued into Mary’s late 20’s. That’s when she finally escaped and traveled back home to South Dakota.

“When I came home, over 30 years ago, there were no services available in our city or state. So I really walked this journey alone, with some people trying to understand my responses and trying to understand what I was going through,” Mary said.

Mary now works to provide what she did not have to others at Call to Freedom, not as a victim of human trafficking but as a survivor.

“That’s what she signifies to those individuals walking through the doors of Call to Freedom. When they see Mary and they meet Mary, another survivor, it says I can get out too, and that there’s hope,” said Executive Director Becky Rasmussen.

Executive Director Becky Rasmussen says Call to Freedom’s programs are created by the voices and journeys of survivors, like Mary.

“Every time we journey life with a survivor of trafficking, and there’s something that maybe we’re missing in that journey of life for them. We’re adding that to our programming, because we want survivors to know that we are going to support you through that entire process,” Rasmussen said.

Some of the many programs offered include: housing, employment, occupational therapy, mental health services and addiction treatments.

“This is such a journey. It’s not something that someone can just heal from and then just be done. It’s this lifelong path that people need to walk,” said Michelle Treasure, Associate Director.

Over the last five years, the increase in cases has caused Call to Freedom to grow. What started off as a volunteer program now has 27 full time employees.

“We see it a lot with the agricultural business in our area, the restaurant business in our state, we have a lot of vulnerabilities in that,” Treasure said.

Which is why Mary says the work they continue to do at Call to Freedom is so transformational for survivors and so important for our community.

“I’m humbled and honored to walk alongside their journey with them as they walk alongside their journey with me also,” Mary said.

Rasmussen says only three percent of trafficking victims are ever identified.

She says Call to Freedom will continue working to provide safety and new life opportunities to those who come through their doors.