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Symposium Held To Fight Human Trafficking

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When you think of human sex trafficking, Sioux Falls and even south dakota aren't usually places that come to mind, but city and state officials say it is a problem, so much so, that task forces have been created to help combat the problem. Those on the task force were trying to educate the public Friday.

Along with the University of South Dakota, the Civil Society out of St. Paul, Minn. hosted a day long symposium in Sioux Falls.

As the Co-Founder of Be Free Ministries Pastor Susan Omanson has made it her life's mission to help those who have been sexually exploited, and who better to speak about human trafficking than someone who has worked with the victims first hand?

Omanson said, "We've had woman who have been brutally beaten, have suffered permanent physical damage, will never be able to have children."

Omanson says those woman don't just live in places like Bangkok, Thailand, they're residing in South Dakota. She says woman and children are not only being solicited on websites such as backpage.com,
but she recalls a teenage girl who was approached by a pimp at a shopping mall.
Omanson said, "...who ten days later was held captive and sodomized and prostituted for two and half months at an apartment in Sioux Falls."

Now it's becoming more common at tourism hot spots across the state.

Omanson said, "We have unusual challenges with sex tourism in our state with the hunting season, Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, now there's concern with the oil fields in North Dakota. There's a lot of trafficking going on there."

As part of an education task force to fight human trafficking in the region, she hopes to bring awareness to the problem. Finally, she says, a law enforcement task force has been created by the U.S. Attorney's office to help her in her mission.

"The risk that these woman put themselves in to even go forward to even testify against these pimps, these perpetrators is huge," said Omanson.

South Dakota law enforcement agencies plan to step up their fight against human trafficking at this year's Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The South Dakota Attorney General announced that law enforcement who work during this year's Rally will be trained to recognize and prevent the forced prostitution of young women and children.

The attorney general says prostitution crimes are increasing, and the annual rally that draws hundreds of thousands of people to western south dakota is part of that increase.
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