Q: Is sex trafficking happening here in the United States?

A: Yes, domestic sex trafficking, which is the sexual exploitation for profit of women and children through buying, selling, or trading their sexual services, is happening in the United States.


Q: What is sex trafficking?

A: Sex trafficking is when a sex act is induced for profit by force and without consent. A sex act for profit means a sexual service such as prostitution, pornography, or any other type of sexual performance is provided in exchange for an item of value. Domestic sex trafficking is the commercial sexual exploitation of American women and children within U.S. borders for money or other compensation such as shelter, food, drugs, etc. This is synonymous with sex slavery, sex trafficking, prostitution, and commercial sexual exploitation.


Q: What are these methods?

A: In order to lure victims and keep them trapped in the cycle of prostitution, traffickers often use force, make threats, provide the victim with drugs, withhold the victim's identification documents, encourage prostitution as a way to pay off a debt, or use various forms of trickery.


Q: What kind of sexual assault is happening?

A: In addition to sex trafficking, one in three Native American women reports being raped. Statistically, these cases rarely see justice. Nationwide, an arrest is made in only 13 percent of the sexual assaults reported by Native women. Native women are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual violence than women of any other race.


Q: Why don’t victims escape when they have the opportunity?

A: Traffickers and pimps use physical, emotional, and psychological abuse to coerce young women and girls into a life of sex trafficking. Traffickers are master manipulators and employ tactics to create trauma bonds with victims. Traffickers often use the threat of violence against victims or victims’ loved ones to secure their submission.


Q: How do traffickers recruit victims?

A: Traffickers use social media sites to recruit teenagers. Many pimps often use a “lover-boy” technique to attract girls from middle and high schools. A lover boy will present himself as a boyfriend and woo the girl with gifts, promises of fulfilled dreams, protection, adventure—whatever she perceives she is lacking. After securing her love and loyalty, he will force her into prostitution.


Q: What makes a young person vulnerable to sex trafficking?   

A: Age is the primary factor of vulnerability. Pre-teen or adolescent girls are more susceptible to the calculated advances, deception, and manipulation tactics used by traffickers and pimps; no youth is exempt from falling prey to these tactics. Traffickers target locations youth frequent such as social media sites, schools, malls, parks, bus stops, shelters, and group homes. Runaway or homeless youth as well as those with a history of drug abuse and physical and sexual abuse may have an increased risk of being trafficked. Vulnerability also extends to those in difficult home situations, often ones that do not provide a protector who is looking out for their well-being.


Q: Who buys sex?

A: The buyers of sex from juveniles can be anyone: professionals, students, tourists, military personnel, or even a family member. Because buyers often pay in cash and may interact with a victim for as little as five minutes, buyers are increasingly difficult to identify.

In South Dakota, there are two events that spike trafficking within the state: the Sturgis Bike Rally and pheasant hunting season, both attracting a large population of men. Forced prostitution of Native women is also a problem in oil fields, forestry projects, and fracking operations such as the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and Montana, where transient workers, almost exclusively male, are housed in remote “man camps.” These areas are prime targets for sex traffickers. To view information about buyers in your state, visit http://www.demandingjustice.org.


Q: Why are Native Americans so at risk for sex trafficking?

A: Unfortunately, Indian reservations have all the ingredients for sex trafficking: poverty, isolation, unemployment, violence, and drug and alcohol abuse. This is all topped with an epidemic of crystal meth addiction spreading like wildfire throughout the reservations. Drug users are selling their babies, daughters, and sisters for this potent stimulant that is ravaging Native American communities.

No numbers record specific rates of local sex trafficking, which can often be buried in crimes of sexual assault, abuse, prostitution, abandonment, or kidnapping. But it is a crime, poorly documented and fuelled by drug abuse, plaguing Indian reservations across the United States.

The rate of meth use among American Indians is the highest of any ethnicity in the country and more than twice as high as any other group, according to the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI).

The number of drug cases on Indian lands nationwide rose seven-fold from 2009 to 2014, and crime rates on some reservations are five times higher than national averages, according to a federal Drug Enforcement Administration report. Meth is blamed for 40 percent of crime on Native land, and most tribal police say domestic violence and assault has increased as a result of addiction, according to the NCAI.

The drug trade helps incite sex trafficking as people exchange themselves, family members, or friends to get high. People who are addicted to meth are not in their right minds. It’s much easier to coerce them into doing things they never would have done if they weren’t addicted. Drug debt is also a prominent enforcer of trafficking. Dealers get victims hooked, then threaten users to pay up by any means, including sex trafficking.


Q: Who are the ones trafficking the victims?  

A: A large number of victims are being trafficked by their own family members. A trafficker can be a parent or guardian. A trafficker can be an aunt or an uncle, or it can be a boyfriend or another friend. The often close relationships between abuser and abused present a maze of problems. Victims often fear the community and think that authorities won't believe them, so instead they defend the trafficker.


Q: Why does Native Hope only focus on sex trafficking of Native Americans?

A: Native Hope exists as a non-profit organization with our primary mission to empower a young generation of Native Americans through programs that provide education, protect at-risk youth, and honor cultural heritage. We feel that it is our duty to extend that mission to include the young Native women and children who are being victimized by the world of sex trafficking. Obviously, our heart goes out to any and all victims of sex trafficking, Native or otherwise, and prevention efforts encompass addressing the issue on a broad scale. Sex trafficking of Native Americans makes up 40% of those being trafficked in the state. This is an urgent issue plaguing Native Americans, and it is our goal to end it.