January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and organizers in North Dakota are helping inform the public of the severity of the issue.
“When you look at human trafficking it’s a criminal act, and it’s also what we call human rights violations,” ND Human Trafficking Taskforce’s Dr. Analena M. Lunde said.
Human trafficking affects many people, and the circumstance of it all can be much more closer to home than you may think.
“It looks like runaway kids, what it doesn’t look like are people standing on the street corners selling themselves, we don’t see that here like they see in the big cities maybe they don’t so much anymore,” Bismarck Police Department’s Sgt. Mike Bolme said.
Although much more common in bigger cities, trafficking victims can be found all throughout the country and here in the upper Midwest it can look slightly different.
“What labor trafficking looks like in North Dakota; we’ve seen that in agriculture, in dairy, in hotels and we’ve also seen with individuals trafficking often times a relative. So, forcing that person to work in an environment where they’re getting paid but the trafficker takes all of that money and it happens all over North Dakota including small towns,” ND Human Trafficking Taskforce’s Amy Jacobson said.
If you suspect someone of being trafficked, there are some signs you may be able to look out for.
“Homeless and runaway youth are incredibly high risk for being trafficked they need a place to stay, they need food, they need clothing, their behavior does not look like ‘oh please help me I’m a pitiful sad child’, their behavior looks like ‘I don’t need your help, stay out of my life, mind your own business, I’m fine’,” said Jacobson .
One trafficking survivor recalls her dark past and speaks on her experiences.
“How I ended up being sex trafficked is I fell on some really hard times I ended up using drugs and I ended up hanging out with the wrong crowd because I didn’t feel worthy. It doesn’t define who I am, if anything it has made me stronger… I’m a fighter,” Human Trafficking Survivor, Nikki Blowers said.