U.S. Representative Kristi Noem today hosted the Justice Against Slavery Roundtable to highlight the issue of human trafficking in South Dakota.  Rep. Noem spoke to approximately 20 attendees about the warning signs and what parents, teachers, and others can do to help combat sex trafficking in Rapid City and the surrounding area.

“As a parent, knowing that traffickers are targeting our kids at schools, at malls, and on the Internet keeps me up at night,” said Rep. Noem.  “You would never think something like that could happen in South Dakota, but it does.  We’re working hard legislatively to give law enforcement officers and prosecutors the tools they need, but the effort begins with awareness.  I’m hopeful today’s Justice Against Slavery Roundtable gave participants new tools and information that they can share within their networks.  If we are going to eliminate this industry, we’ll need everyone’s involvement.”

The event at the Rapid City Public Library allowed for a candid conversation between speakers and attendees regarding the realities of human trafficking in South Dakota.  Other speakers included:

  • Brent Gromer, Special Agent for the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation
  • Hollie Strand, Child Advocacy Center of the Black Hills
  • Tess Frazen, Director of the Human Rights Division for the Family Heritage Alliance

Hollie Strand of the Child Advocacy Center of the Black Hills stated:  “Education is essential to addressing the issue of sex trafficking here in South Dakota.  We are grateful to Rep. Noem for putting the spotlight on this issue and arranging this roundtable so we can better educate parents, teachers and community members.  The more we can get people talking about the issue, the better equipped we’ll be to protect our children from this disgusting industry.”

Noem has emerged as a leader on this issue in Congress, having been appointed to the Majority Leader’s anti-trafficking taskforce.  Rep. Noem has co-sponsored a series of anti-trafficking bills, many of which could be part of a broader anti-trafficking effort that is expected to be voted on in the House sometime this spring.  The legislation she is supporting include the following:

  • Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act (H.R. 4225).  This proposal is designed to close Internet marketplaces that host advertisements for the commercial exploitation of minors.  H.R. 4225 would allow prosecutors to charge websites with a federal crime if they knowingly advertise sex with minors.
  • End Sex Trafficking Act (H.R. 2805).  This proposal clarifies the law to make it clear that criminals who solicit or obtain the services of a trafficking victim should be arrested, prosecuted and convicted. 
  • Stop Exploitation through Sex Trafficking Act (H.R. 3610).  This legislation would establish safe harbor laws across the country, which require that minors engaged in prostitution are treated as trafficking victims, not criminals. 
  • Child Sex Trafficking Data and Response Act (H.R. 2744).  Because children in foster care are at greater risk of becoming a victim of sex trafficking, H.R. 2744 would ensure any missing children in foster care and adoption assistance are reported to authorities for entry into the National Crime Information Center of the FBI within 24 hours.  The legislation would also require states to develop plans to address human trafficking within the foster care system and better identify the victims of sex trafficking who are under the state’s care.
  • Preventing Sex Trafficking and Improving Opportunities for Youth in Foster Care Act (H.R. 4058).  This legislation would work to improve the way that states monitor and share information for children in foster care.  The proposal also encourages states to do more to move kids out of foster care and into an adoptive home or permanent living situation.

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