Groups team up to fight human trafficking in the Hills

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Rapid City, SD Last year, more than 8,000 cases of human trafficking were reported to the Polaris Human trafficking hotline.

But is this really a problem in South Dakota? The answer is yes. In 2016 the National Human Trafficking Hotline reports 68 calls in South Dakota -- 7 of which were minors.

Becky Rasmussen, Call to Freedom executive director says, "Trafficking, sex trafficking, human trafficking, is happening and every community. Where you have vulnerability, you have trafficking and possible trafficking situations."

Saturday, Open Suitcase hosted it's first ever Anti-human trafficking event, Setting the Captives Free.

Lea Heisch, event organizer says, "It shouldn't be happening we want to get the word out that this is real that this is happening and what can we do to prevent and stop it."

The store hosted several anti-trafficking organizations to inform the public about the resources available for victims and the signs of a person who is being trafficked.

Rasmussen says,"The first thing that you look for is it in individual does not make eye contact with you maybe in a controlled situation they may have either a male or a female who is not allowing them to talk and they're very timid they won't make eye contact with you they may be wearing a lot of jewelry they may be dressed where you think might be inappropriate but they may be dress like in that fashion."

The group also hosted Fallout Ministries who provide self defense workshops to women of all ages.

Heisch says, "So we thought it would be a really neat opportunity to get everybody together in one place so that we can Network find out what each organization is doing how can they network together and how we can educate just the general population what is going on that this is in our community."

And our representative in Washington spoke and advocated for the public's role in stopping human trafficking and the roles the legislature plays.

Representative Kristi Noem says, "I gave an update today about some of the laws that we're working on in Washington D.C. about the 16 bills that we have already passed through the house that we want to see move through the Senate and get to the president's desk, so that they can start to help those victims."

But the main goal of the event was to raise awareness that it is happening locally and that there is help.

Rasmussen says, "We're always at these events number one to let the community know that it is happening here in South Dakota it's happening in every town and every city in South Dakota and number 2 if there are any of those that are being victimized or survivors of human trafficking that there are services available for them and that there is help."