Survivor of familial trafficking overcomes horrific past, now empowers others to heal

Shining a spotlight on sex trafficking ahead of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
Published: Aug. 2, 2023 at 1:31 AM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Across the U.S., 92% of human trafficking cases reported to authorities and filed in federal courts for 2021 were in relation to sex trafficking. That same year, in South Dakota, 21 cases involved forms of sex trafficking, and five involved labor trafficking.

Gina Dvorak is a victim of familial trafficking, the hidden process of trading a family member for services, money, or goods.

“I was trafficked as a really small child by my father. My dad was involved with a trafficking ring, but because he was my main trafficker, I’m considered a victim of familial trafficking,” explained sex trafficking survivor Gina Dvorak. “My first real memory of being officially sold was when I was about 4 years old, and he sold me to someone at a truck stop, and when they were done with me, they paid him in a carton of cigarettes.”

In return for those cigarettes that her father traded her for, she endured the torture she was traded for.

“You know, as with all sex trafficking, there was a lot of torture, a lot of beatings, a lot of inhumane treatment, and that’s how they treat you to be quiet,” explained Dvorak.

Because of these horrific experiences, Gina felt helpless with no way out, which led her to attempt suicide at a young age.

“By the time I was five years old, I tried to kill myself. I jumped off a second-story building because the pain and the torture were so intense that I just didn’t want to be here anymore,” remembered Dvorak.

Even after fleeing her dangerous situation with her mother around the age of seven, her healing process didn’t start until much later in her life.

“For me, that started when I was about 38. I started in therapy, and as I began working on some healing, you kind of question why you are the way you are because you aren’t sure of everything that’s happened and you’ve learned not to trust your memories, and so the healing journey for me really started then,” explained Dvorak.

Now, Gina has turned to helping other victims of sex trafficking through the organization “Treasured Life” as she assists others in working through their experiences and trauma.

“That’s not who you actually are; you have the ability to heal from the most horrific trauma; you don’t have to stay stuck; you know where you’re at; there is hope... there is hope, and there is healing, so keep fighting,” said Dvorak.

If you are a victim or a survivor of human or sex trafficking and feel comfortable reaching out to someone for help, the National Human Trafficking Hotline is 1-888-373-7888. You can also contact them via email at to get in touch with service providers, law enforcement agencies, and other professionals in your area.