Correction: An earlier version of this story had the incorrect spelling of Ejaz Khan’s last name. The story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling.
We see many forms of trafficking on TV and in movies, but sometimes forget that this is happening in our own backyards.
Melissa Kaiser, the navigator for the North Dakota Human Trafficking Taskforce, says her team works beside victims, law enforcement and prosecutors to combat trafficking.
Over the past year, they’ve helped 576 victims in North Dakota.
The most common cases are those who are groomed by family members or people that they trust. She says the No. 1 reason people in the area don’t come forward is fear.
“Secondly, victims are really dependent on their trafficker to meet their basic needs,” said Kaiser.
Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery. Victims are subjected to force, fraud or coercion, exploitation and/or forced labor, whereas sex trafficking is for the purpose of sexual exploration specifically, where one may be bought or sold.
Locally, both are happening — and many are attempting to raise awareness. New York Director Ejaz Khan has traveled many miles to do so to produce a film in Linton.
The movie, called Trapped, tells the story of a local girl who was a victim of sex trafficking.
“When I speak to people and I say sex trafficking is happening here in North Dakota or in America, nobody wants to believe it,” said Khan.
Kaiser says we have to erase all stigmas and myths because this can happen anywhere and to anyone.
“There’s an additional stigma that comes with males which is males are supposed to like sex, males cant be raped,” she added.
If a man comes forward, he has an additional target and may now be afraid of being bullied or humiliated.
Victims need support, someone to believe them and someone to help them regain trust, Kaiser says.
Khan plans to donate a portion of the proceeds from the movie to a project that’s working to help those being trafficked.