In South Dakota, sex trafficking is never in season. Beginning last month, Native Hope's on-the-ground awareness efforts combined with our digital audience's online involvement resulted in thousands of people working together across the country to help prevent sex trafficking. Native Hope was pleased to join forces with a variety of organizations and volunteers as we launched our #NeverInSeason campaign this past October.
Our goal was to heighten awareness of increased sex trafficking during the hunting season in South Dakota by informing people of this harsh reality and educating them on the signs to look for if they encounter suspicious activity. The success of this inaugural campaign was fueled by the collaborative efforts of the Watertown Initiative to Prevent Sex Trafficking, the West River Human Trafficking Task Force, and the Red Sand Project.
We were also excited to be working with local groups throughout the state, including convention and visitors bureaus, community organizations, and local media, in addition to advertising in the Sioux Falls Regional Airport, the state’s largest airport. Local hunting lodges and hotels, concerned about trafficking taking place on their premises, were also cooperating with Native Hope to prevent sex trafficking.
The #NeverInSeason campaign press release, highlighting Native Hope’s mission to end sex trafficking of Native youth, reached across the country. It appeared on over 210 national news network channels, news websites, and in newspapers throughout the state, including Fortune Magazine’s “raceAhead” newsletter by Ellen McGirt. The director of Native Hope, Julie Muldoon, spoke with the Argus Leader, one of South Dakota’s leading news sources, and said, “We understand not all those hunters are coming for this reason, but (hunting season) does pose a unique opportunity for trafficking to happen.”
Many were shocked to hear some of the statistics regarding sex trafficking in South Dakota, including the fact that 40% of trafficking victims in the state are Native American, and they want to continue to be informed on how Native Hope and other organizations are working together to end this injustice. A representative from World Vision Magazine expressed that “this topic is close to my heart due to my travels outside the country;” however, she admitted that she “had no idea it affected Native Americans to this scale.” Many are aware that sex trafficking is an issue in other countries but just can’t believe it’s happening right here in the United States.
Native Hope wants to thank all of the volunteers who joined together to raise awareness, not only in the state of South Dakota, but nationally as well. Residents from Florida, Ohio, and Arizona lent their voices by handing out flyers in their communities, college campuses, and local businesses. An employee for the Diversity Advisory Council for the county commissioner in Tampa, Florida, is responsible for bringing the current issues facing Indian Country to the forefront in his state. He is looking forward to continuing his friendship with Native Hope and would love to have a Native Hope ambassador travel to speak with his council about the issue of sex trafficking. He also plans on sharing our videos and information at his monthly meetings. To learn more about Native Hope's ambassador program, click here.
Native Hope invites you to join the movement in the fight against sex trafficking. Together, we can spread the word and increase awareness about this injustice; we can bring hope to vulnerable victims who are desperate for a way out. Please stand with us. Together, we can end it.