Human trafficking in North Dakota
BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Human trafficking is not just a big city problem. People across North Dakota are exploited for labor and sex. Since 2016, the North Dakota Human Trafficking Task Force has helped around 650 people break away from traffickers. Your News Leader spoke with a human rights advocate at the 31:8 Project and has more for Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
Advocates say over the past few years in North Dakota they’ve seen an increase in traffickers recruiting victims through social media and an increase in familial trafficking, where a family member is the trafficker.
Executive Director and Founder of the 31:8 Project Stacy Schaffer says it’s unfortunate that the outcome of trafficking isn’t always “justice” but it’s important for people to know the indicators and to speak up.
She says traffickers use blackmail and emotional manipulation to target people.
“Let’s say you sent a photo to this individual, a sexually explicit photo, and now this person is threatening that, ‘If you don’t do what I ask you to do I’m going to send this to everybody in your school.’ That threat is real. Or if I have a sibling and you know that. You know maybe I take care of the sibling or family friend and you threaten to hurt them in some shape or form. That is very scary, especially to younger individuals,” said Shaffer.
She says it can happen to anyone of any age or any background.
“It really can be anybody. What we always like to say is, ‘Are you somebody who would like to be loved?’ And I think most of us would say, ‘Yeah, we do want to be loved.’ We do want people to like us or appreciate us in some way, and by knowing that essentially, we are all vulnerable in some shape or form,” she added.
She also says no matter the situation, or how you got into the situation, there’s always hope and people to help.
If you notice something that doesn’t seem right, like changes in behavior, not being able to speak for oneself or lack of control of one’s money, she says to contact local law enforcement.
This month, advocates are raising awareness by putting on presentations across the state for the community and in the school districts.
More information on human trafficking can be found at: 31:8 Project - North Dakota Human Trafficking Education - 31:8 Project (318project.org)
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