Fighting Human Trafficking: Call to Freedom’s Mission in the Sioux Empire

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – The biggest fundraiser of the year for those fighting human trafficking in the Sioux Empire took place this morning.

Call to Freedom fights tirelessly to raise awareness on the issue impacting not only the nation but the Sioux Empire as well.

Nationally, nearly 3,300 people are pulled into human trafficking every day. In South Dakota, Call to Freedom has served 231 victims since 2016 with more calls piling in.

According to officials, only 3% of victims globally come forward making many wonder just how severe the issue really is.

“It’s happening in the United States and it’s happening here in South Dakota as well,” says Becky Rassmussen.

Rassmussen is the Executive Director of Call to Freedom in Sioux Falls. She’s been fighting human trafficking for years. She says thanks to Hollywood movies, like ‘Taken,’ there’s a skewed picture of how human trafficking is actually facilitated.

The cold reality is, that trafficking is a very calculated process and very seldom done at random.

“They build relationships with their victim before they pull them into trafficking situations and so we’ve worked with clients who have been family members who have introduced their own kids,” says Rassmussen.

This manipulation reaches far beyond just children. Those who seem vulnerable are often preyed upon, using what Rassmussen calls a “recruiter.” The recruiter befriends the victim, gaining their trust and eventually introduces them to their trafficker.

We’ve had clients that have known their trafficker for up to six months, it’s been their boyfriend,” says Rassmussen.

Traffickers then turn victims over to a purchaser who then controls their every move. Victims are denied any and all possessions. What little they are given, the trafficker will control where they live and will be used to tighten the bind on them.

“They’ll control their identification, they’ll control where they live, they’ll control the addiction,” says Rassmussen.

“Heroin, pills, fentayl, meth, alcohol,” says Carrie Groeneweg.

The Women’s Unit Counselor at Keystone Treatment Center, Carrie Groeneweg says very few are able to escape captivity. The ones that do, have to overcome not only trauma but forced chemical dependency, taking years to overcome but some never do.

“Their trust issues now are super huge. They don’t know who to trust, who they can talk to, who really is a good person, a bad person,” says Groeneweg.

Both Groeneweg and Rassmussen say in order to prevent and combat these crimes, you need to know the warning signs.

A red flag is if you can tell someone is being controlled, they are not allowed to talk, they don’t have any possessions, or are overly fearful.

If you missed the fundraiser and would like to help, Call to Freedom has monthly luncheons. You can find that information at calltofreedom.org.

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