Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: Coming Together to Fight Trafficking

Coming Together to Fight Trafficking
By Rep. Kristi Noem
May 22, 2015

kristi noem headshot May 21 2014In February 2013, South Dakota law enforcement  placed undercover ads on the webpage targeting folks in the Watertown area.  They weren’t pretending to sell illegal drugs; they were pretending to sell people – young girls to be specific.  Over the course of two days, more than 100 individuals responded to the ad – many of whom were hoping to buy these young women for sex.  Similar operations were conducted in Rapid City and during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and all had similar results.

Many times, when folks think of sex trafficking, they picture scenes from urban areas or in foreign countries.  But the reality is it’s happening here.  Young girls – often being recruited between 12 and 14 years old – are bought and sold for sex in small towns and larger communities.  They’re being forced to have sex upwards of 50 times per day, according to the Polaris Project – a leader in the movement to end trafficking.  And their pimps are working to get them hooked on drugs and alcohol, only deepening the young woman’s dependence on the trafficker.

In some cases, trafficking victims are brought through South Dakota from bigger cities and sent to North Dakota’s oil fields.  In other cases, they’re being recruited at local schools, online, or in Indian Country to be sold at large events, like the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.  In many – if not most – cases, they are being recruited in South Dakota and sold in South Dakota.  It has to stop.

For the last few years, I’ve been working with shelters and advocates in South Dakota who have helped victims escape and survivors heal.  With their experiences and needs in mind, I was able to draft legislation – while also helping move forward additional bills others had written – that aim to better combat this criminal industry.  On May 19, we earned a significant victory.  The broadly bipartisan Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, S.178, passed the U.S. House of Representatives, meaning the bill is now headed straight to the President’s desk.

I was privileged to have language I wrote included in this larger package.   My portion of the legislation accomplishes three things.  First, it improves some existing federal grants to ensure they support shelters wanting to provide a place for trafficking survivors.  Today, there are just 200 beds available in the country for underage victims, so this is an important expansion. My language also launches a review that will look into federal and state trafficking prevention activities to help identify and develop the best prevention practices. Finally, it requires an inventory of existing federal anti-trafficking efforts to ensure that the money we’re spending is working for victims.

In addition to the portion that I wrote, S.178 aims to stop websites, like, that are known to facilitate the buying and selling of our children for sex.  It establishes grant programs to help teach medical professionals how to identify victims of trafficking, as they are often one of the first lines of defense when it comes to identifying a trafficking victim.  And it helps improve law enforcement task forces to combat this terrible crime.  All in all, it amounts to one of the largest anti-trafficking packages passed in nearly a decade.

There is still more to do.  Building awareness remains a huge challenge, but it’s a challenge each of you can help us overcome. I encourage you to learn more about the red flags so you can identify them if someone you know is at risk.  The Polaris Project website, found at, is one resource.

Thank you to everyone who has engaged in ending trafficking in South Dakota.  The work you do to eliminate its presence in our community and heal survivors is admirable and vital.


2 thoughts on “Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: Coming Together to Fight Trafficking”

  1. How present is this in South Dakota? 1, 10, 100, 1000, 10,000 times a year?

    It seems like this is a no brainer of an issue.

  2. Congresswoman … while we do agree that the efforts against trafficking and the justice department overall need to be expanded, it’s important to use proper tactics. Please post the undercover ad that appeared in “The Back Page” in 2013 so we may determine for ourselves if this is entrapment or not. Also, it’s been two and a half years since. What was the disposition of the “more than 100 individuals” that answered the ad? This is a vital issue for women everywhere and we need to know that your office isn’t just “yelling squirrel”, so to speak.

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