“I’ve long believed that it’s the responsibility of every human being … to stand between evil and innocence,” Tess Franzen, the first director of South Dakota’s Family Heritage Alliance’s fledgling Counter Human Trafficking Division, said. Franzen draws inspiration from Isaiah 1:17: Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.
The South Dakota U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson believes ” that faith-based organizations can play an important role in ending human trafficking in South Dakota. This is a problem that requires both aggressive law enforcement and increased public awareness. Our churches and faith leaders have the ability to educate thousands of people each week. That makes them a powerful ally in our shared effort to protect our state’s most vulnerable citizens.”
Human trafficking is defined by a 2000 federal law as trafficking that involves “force, fraud or coercion” and, mostly, it involves prostitution, often of minors. Child-advocacy groups estimate that perhaps 100,000 missing children are forced into prostitution each year in the U.S. But labor trafficking is also a potential abuse in places like South Dakota that rely on seasonal tourism workers, Franzen said. Activists are also concerned that forced prostitution is big business in the Bakken oil fields and during the Sturgis Rally.
Franzen’s new volunteer job will involve speaking engagements and workshops to professional groups to help them better recognize victimization. She also wants to educate youth about protecting themselves from human trafficking before they get involved in it. “My objective is to provide awareness, information and education about it; to help the exploited find a way out, yes, but also to prevent it,” she said. “I’d like to help young people become smarter about human trafficking, to be better about seeing the red flags and maybe to understand cyber-safety a little better.” The Family Heritage Alliance expects to lobby the 2014 Legislature on human trafficking, launch a billboard campaign, and utilize social media in its educational efforts.
Learn more at Mary Garrigan’s Rapid City Journal article: Human trafficking: FHA hopes shedding light on issue makes ‘cockroaches’ run.