It’s a widespread problem and South Dakota is not immune to the effects of human trafficking. January is national Human Trafficking Awareness Month and Call to Freedom is a group in Sioux Falls that is looking to be an advocate for those who fall prey to the sex trade.

The group’s Executive Director Becky Rasmussen says supply and demand especially during big events can make the Sioux Falls area a hub of sorts.

“Any time there’s big events they transport (victims). We have Interstates 29 and 90 going through our community. There’s probably a lot of smaller towns that as they are transporting to a large event like the Super Bowl they are going through our communities and we’re not identifying it.”

Call to Freedom’s mission is mainly to rescue women or girls that get caught in the cycle. Rasmussen feels acknowledging the problem coupled with spreading the word on how to identify trafficking situations will make inroads.

“It’s out of sight out of mind. If you don’t see it, you don’t know it’s happening or you don’t give it a second thought. I think that’s where groups like us (give presentations) to talk about what’s happening, how to identify the warning signs and how to report it. It’s important as a community to get educated on what it looks like.”

According to Rasmussen people in the hotel industry are on the front line of detecting human trafficking because those are the most likely areas for such interactions to take place.

Legislation that would expunge criminal records for juveniles caught in sex trafficking passed unanimously in the South Dakota Senate and will have a hearing in the House of Representatives on January 31.

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