Sex trafficking in North Dakota

Woke Shop trains people to learn more about sex trafficking in the area

Megan Lundborg spoke about the misconceptions of human trafficking

There are many misconceptions and misunderstandings when it comes to human trafficking. Instead of continuing to be a clueless society, many people attended an event hosted at North Dakota State to become more knowledgeable about the indicators and definitions of trafficking in North Dakota.

On April 12, the Sexual Assault Prevention and Advocacy and Violence Prevention Educators hosted the first ever “Woke Shop.” This event focused on human trafficking and had Megan Lundborg, a Youthworks Survivor Advocate, explain the reality of sex trafficking. Most of her clients are residents of North Dakota, so it does exist here.

The difference between sexual exploitation and sex trafficking is easily confused. Sexual exploitation has two parties involved. Someone is the exploited (performing sexual acts) and the other is the exploiter (commanding the acts). Sex trafficking involves three parties: the trafficker/exploiter, the person being trafficked and the buyer. Each of these are used in exchange for something, but not always money.

“It does not have to be money; that’s a very common misconception,” Lundborg said. The act can be for any goods and/or services to be considered trafficking. For example, rent, a place to stay, food or drugs could be exchanged.

In North Dakota, advocates see a lot of “survival sex.” Due to the snow and the low temperatures, people need a shelter and a place to stay warm, so they exchange sex for a place to stay.

Sometimes the trafficking involves four parties by including a “bottom bitch.” This is the person who advertises, recruits, manipulates to get someone who will be performing the sexual acts for the trafficker. By having this person, they are the ones who are doing the illegal activities, which means if they are caught, they get jail time and the trafficker is “clean.”

Many people have an idea that being trafficked is a choice, but Lundborg explained how it is more like as if someone told you that you had to have sex with the next 10 people that walked through your classroom door. “There’s some underlying reason why they’re stuck,” Lundborg said.

Due to society, there are stereotypes of what a trafficker may look like. When the audience was asked, they described them as “creepy” and wearing “a lot of jewelry.” Much to the surprise of those attending, traffickers can be anyone: a reverend, police officer, lawyer, social worker, male, female, young, old and so much more. “They look like everyone else — they can be in positions of power,” Lundborg explained. “No one is exempt.”

Another problem is the idea that men cannot be sex trafficked. Most men do not report that they are being sex trafficked because of societal standards. “There’s this whole society telling them that ‘they should like that,’” Lundborg said.

Women are barely believed when they come forward, and men are believed less often than that, so why would they come forward when they’re being told not to?

When you simplify the idea of sex trafficking, it is defined as: “Someone in a position of power taking advantage of someone’s vulnerability,” according to Lundborg. This can be many things like age, low self-esteem, previous sexual abuse/neglect, mental health, separation from family or not having a support system. “They will know those things, and then they will prey on you.”

Lundborg explained the idea as trying to think of trafficking as though you’re 14 years old again. At that age, when you lie to your parents, you could see it as a big deal. For example, you lie and say there will be parents at a party. Now you’re at the party, and you can either stay there and sleep with someone you don’t want to, or you can go home and admit to your parents you lied. At 14, you would be scared to tell your parents, so it could end in a worse option.

A tactic they use for recruitment is looking at a group of girls walking and picking the one who is in the back behind the two in front because she may feel more secluded, so it is easier to recruit.

When someone is being trafficked, they are usually stripped from their identity by being given a new name and a story to memorize so they have a fake identity if they get caught. They are normally given multiple phones, and if they do not answer, they are punished by their “pimp.” Lundborg gave examples of punishments such as burning them, peeing on them, peeling their face, cutting them or putting them in dog kennels.

The most common type of “pimp” advocates see is the “boyfriend pimp.” This is when people start off in a relationship and then they change the dynamic by saying, “If they don’t do that, they don’t actually love them.”

There is also Stockholm syndrome, where it causes the person being trafficked to not want to leave or to go back because that person has taken care of them, even if they were forced to do something they did not want to do.

According to federal law, there must be a process (recruiting, harboring, moving, obtaining or maintaining a person), means (by force, fraud or coercion) and end (for involuntary servitude, debt bondage, slavery or sex trade). North Dakota has now adopted the “Safe Harbor Law,” meaning for minors they do not have to prove “means.”

There is also an expungement law where if there are any laws broken during the time of being human trafficked, then the person who was trafficked can work to get those expunged.

There are resources at NDSU that provide assistance for any of those that are sex trafficked, harassed, abused, et cetera:

Counseling Center: 701-231-7671

Student Health Service: 701-231-7331

Campus Escort Service: 701-231-8998

Megan Talcott:

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