Prevent. Intervene. Recover.
By some estimates, 100,000 individuals are trafficked in the U.S. each year, most of them women and many of them children. Sadly, South Dakota is not immune. Month after month, we read stomach-churning reports of sex trafficking from across the state. There is a role each of us can play in fighting trafficking by simply understanding what to look out for, but a broader policy shift needs to occur as well to better prevent trafficking, intervene when it does occur, and help survivors rebuild.
This is a crime I’ve battled for years. In the U.S. House, I championed the decade’s most comprehensive anti-trafficking initiative in 2015. The legislation enhanced law enforcement tools, better supported intervention programs, and provided additional resources to survivors. Still, my work continues. Since the 2015 bill became law, I’ve pushed legislation to expand trafficking demand reduction programs, go after online actors who knowingly facilitate trafficking, and help survivors with housing and other needs.
But not every solution to human trafficking is a federal solution. As governor, I would…
- Get tough on those who sell, buy, or market trafficking victims for sex. Whether you’re a trafficker, a website that facilitates trafficking, or someone who purchases trafficking victims for sex, your activity will have no place in South Dakota. As Governor, I will ensure South Dakota does not go easy on perpetrators – the punishment will fit the heinousness of these crimes.
- Make sure traffickers pay. Traffickers make an estimated $150 billion annually, according to the International Labor Organization. If elected governor, I will fight to strengthen the state’s restitution laws in trafficking cases, bringing justice and offering victims more financial support for medical and mental health services, housing, childcare and other related expenses.
- Expand intervention training to first responders and medical professionals. Research indicates more than 85% of survivors received medical treatment while being trafficked, but the vast majority of healthcare professionals have never received training on how to identify a victim or intervene should they suspect something is going on. We must leverage federal and state training resources, in partnership with nonprofits and professional organizations, to ensure South Dakota’s healthcare professionals are equipped to identify and intervene when a victim enters the exam room.
- Secure access to emergency and transitional housing. A home is so often where recovery begins, and yet, transitional housing for sex trafficking survivors is scarce. In many cases, sex trafficking survivors require stronger security protocols and different support services than other victims of violence. If elected, I would expand existing grant programs in order to offer transitional housing, healing, and hope to many more trafficking survivors.