Opioids, meth, and other drugs are weapons used to steal our people.
Rapid City, SD is identified as one of the top 10 cities with the highest number of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls cases that are not in law enforcement records .
The life expectancy is 7 years for sex trafficking victims.
The odds of escape at 1 in 100 .
12 - 14 is the average age of entry into sex trafficking in the United States .
What is human trafficking?
Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, where people are forced to work or provide services. Often these people are “trafficked” (moved or transported).
Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age.
The “trafficked” people may receive just what’s necessary to live (food, water, shelter) while the money earned by their work goes to the “traffickers” who control them.
In 2015 the National Congress of American Indians found an estimated 40 percent of women victims of sex trafficking identify as American Indian, Alaska Native, or First Nations.
How are drugs being weaponized?
Trafficking of illegal drugs and human trafficking often happen together. Drug traffickers may also be transporting people as another source of money.
Human traffickers can use drugs as “bait” to recruit people who have a substance use disorder. They can use drugs to force victims to obey their orders, work harder, or for longer hours.
Commonly used substances are tobacco, alcohol, hallucinogens, stimulants, heroin, sedatives, and marijuana . Heroin and methamphetamine  are particularly addictive substances.
Drugs are used to:
- induce compliance
- create dependency
- feed a “habit”
- punish an unwilling victim
- cope with the stress of sex trafficking
- lure in a vulnerable individual, criminalize a victim
- incapacitate a victim
Here are some tips to fight back.
Research current trends in the community.
Understand the local trends and what are high-risk situations. When are the significant events that attract outsiders? Where are the MMIWG and trafficking hotspots? For example, the I-90 highway across South Dakota is considered a trafficking corridor. What have you heard or read? Although data on MMIWG is lacking, news articles, publications, and word of mouth reveal anecdotal evidence of predator tactics and targets in the area. Follow social media that posts local MMIP information. Attend MMIW events and connect with groups, like the Red Ribbon Skirt Society, who are involved in addressing these types of issues. Help bring back missing relatives by reposting and sharing missing persons’ posts as soon as you see them. One in five youth, who run away or are homeless, is a victim of human trafficking. It is critical to get our children to safety as quickly as possible regardless if they willingly left.
Know that predators use fraud, coercion, and force.
Human traffickers commonly seek children who are alone, isolated, impoverished, rebellious, come from an abusive/fractured home, or have emotional and physical needs. These kidnappers exploit children’s dreams by making false promises of wealth, gifts, freedom, and love. Youth who are in foster care, who runs away, or are homeless are especially at risk. Any teen or child hangout area might be targeted, such as schools, malls, movie theaters, bowling alleys, parks, concerts, and parties. Isolated children are much more likely to be targeted, so make sure your child is always with a person you trust.
Each year the FBI receives hundreds of complaints about child victims through social media sites. A “survey of 10 to 17-year-olds revealed 46 percent admit to having given out their personal information to someone they did not know”. Online predators typically pose as children close in age to the victims, then travel to meet the children or convince the children to perform sexual acts online.
Online and in-person, predators approach children in various ways. The “boyfriend” approach involves showing romantic interest by building a relationship (often via social media) before meeting in person and coercing them into prostitution. Some predators will approach youth as a “dad” figure and promise to care for the children, be their “daddy,” offer provisions, and love them. Drugs are often used to alter the mindset of the victims and create a drug dependency, forcing them to return repeatedly to the pimp to feed their addiction. Fake job postings have also been used to recruit victims. Pimps will even use trafficked women to recruit young girls.
Plan your response.
Download a personal safety app such as Silent Beacon, One Scream, or the free version of bSafe, among many phone apps out there. These phone apps can be activated to send distress signals and your location to friends.
Learn all you can about prevention, treatment, and recovery of substance use disorders. Individuals with substance use disorders can be vulnerable to the manipulation tactics of traffickers. Traffickers will use opioids such as heroin as a means of control. Victims who are physically dependent on the substance may do whatever it takes to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Learn about medication-assisted treatment (MAT) providers. MAT is a safe alternative to breaking free from opioid withdrawals than to stay held captive by the use of opioids like heroin.
The Great Plains Tribal Opioid Response program has educational information and workshops on opioids, meth, and other substances.
Check-in regularly with your friends and relatives, especially if you or they are attending large events, traveling alone or spending time alone, or being with someone you or they don’t know well. Keep up with each other’s activities and relationships. One way to create a text group with friends or relatives to check in periodically. Always know who’s around your children. Always know as much as you can about your children’s friends or relatives’ significant others.
Create An ‘If I Go Missing’ Folder for yourself and each of your children. 
Include in a file:
- Clear, recent face photos
- Online and personal technology logins
- Social-media passwords
- Bank account numbers
- Dental and other medical records
- Copy of your driver’s license
- Photos of identifying scars or tattoos
- Pictures of jewelry you wear often
- Names and addresses of places you frequent
- Handwriting samples
- Vehicle information, such as license plates, VIN, photos of the vehicle
- The layout of your typical daily routes
- Cellphone and laptop serial numbers
- Names and descriptions of the relationships with the people closest to you
- Contact info for your family members and closest friends
This file should be accessible to an emergency contact. It can be a paper copy or a file that you can share through email or on a cloud-based application like OneDrive or Google Drive.
Build strong, healthy, and supportive relationships. Engage in cultural practices and family bonding activities. A trafficker will not prey on someone who has healthy relationships, high self-esteem, and self-confidence. Teach your friends and relatives about protecting themselves against victimization. Normalize talking about how indigenous lives are sacred and worth protecting. Connecting With Our Youth has resources on ways to practice cultural, spiritual, mental, and physical wellness.
Know who to contact.
For resources on MMIW, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault, visit:
The Tribal Resource Tool Website – This website is a searchable database of resources for Survivors of Crime and Abuse In Indian Country. https://tribalresourcetool.org/
The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center has toolkits, education, and resources for indigenous women and families facing MMIW, Sexual assault, and intimate partner violence. https://www.niwrc.org/
The South Dakota Network Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault is a South Dakota-specific network of resources for prevention and services for victims and survivors in South Dakota. https://sdnafvsa.com/home/
StrongHearts Native Helpline (1-844-762-8483) is a 24/7 confidential and anonymous culturally appropriate domestic, dating, and sexual violence helpline for Native Americans.