Human trafficking is a rapidly growing criminal industry across the world – and that doesn’t exclude North Dakota.
That’s according to the North Dakota attorney general’s office.
Emily Medalen has more on a program in the state that offers more than just jail time for offenders.
“A lot of people don’t realize that human trafficking is happening right here in our state. Right in front of us,” says Stacy Schaffer, DRP Program Coordinator.
Since 2007, the National Human Trafficking Hotline reports receiving 299 calls from North Dakota-
those resulted in finding 85 cases of sex trafficking.
“We want to believe it won’t ever happen to us… but in reality, that’s not true. It could happen to anybody,” says Schaffer.
“Particularly, vulnerable young people. Mostly women, but also, in an increasing way, young men as well are being exploited,” says Jason Adkins, Executive Director, Minnesota Catholic Conference.
Right now the punishment for soliciting sex with someone over the age of 18 is a B misdemeanor – with a maximum punishment of 30 days in jail and $1,500 in fines.
Which is why the Demand reduction program, put into place last year, requires offenders to attend a class – where they will learn about health implications, and what legal action can be taken against them if they continue down this path.
“Judging from the individuals who have gone through the class, I truly feel like we are starting to make a difference. Not only in those individuals lives, but also the people that are doing this work,” says Schaffer.
Law enforcement, DRP members, faith leaders, and even a survivor met this week to heighten awareness across ND about DRP.
“Here’s an option that we can use that’s proven to work more effectively than throwing somebody in jail for a couple of days,” she added.
Their goal is to spread the word about DRP as much as possible so that offenders and community members alike know that a rehabilitation option is here.
“Really, we hope that that will help decrease the demand when it comes to purchasing people for different sex acts,” says Schaffer.
“That happens in small town North Dakota and Minnesota, and it happens in NYC. We all have to be aware of the ways in which it’s affecting our communities. Reporting in Bismarck, I’m Emily Medalen,” added Adkins.
Click the link below for more on the Demand Reduction Program.