How HB 1047 would help fight human trafficking

Local News

A bill in the South Dakota legislature aims to hold human traffickers more accountable and help victims.

This is Governor Kristi Noem’s bill.

In a statement to KELOLAND News, the Governor’s office says, “Gov. Noem is incredibly grateful for the advocates and survivors who testified on behalf of her anti-human trafficking bill. This crime knows no borders, and these children and victims need our help. We look forward to working with the legislature to get this done.”

KELOLAND News spoke to a woman who says she was trafficked as a young girl.

“Caroline” remembers the nights her mother would bring different men into her childhood home.

“My mom would hold me down while they raped me. My mom held me down while they burnt me. My mom would whisper in my ear, ‘Now, you’re just like me,'” Human Trafficking Survivor Caroline said.

At the time, Caroline says it wasn’t identified as human trafficking.

“They thought, ‘Oh, she was just raped.’ Put me in rape counseling. That did nothing for me,” Caroline said.

As an adult, Caroline found help from Call to Freedom, a non-profit that provides services for victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

The organization’s executive director says House Bill 1047 would do a number of things to fight the crime.

“One that we’re very excited about is being able to protect those that are being trafficked by their own family members, parents, guardians or anybody that they’re under the supervision of.” Call to Freedom Executive Director Becky Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen says since March of 2016, Call to Freedom has provided direct services to more than 310 survivors.

“It is happening in South Dakota. We are serving individuals who have been trafficked by a family member. We are serving individuals that have been trafficked by mafia, cartel. We’ve served individuals who have been trafficked by gangs. Traffickers come in many different forms,” Rasmussen said.

“No child should be trafficked. No child should have to wonder about their night going home,” Caroline said.

Supporters say the bill would also do other things, including strengthening state statutes to prosecute traffickers and helping victims clean up their criminal records.

You can read the full bill here.

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