SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — You’ve likely seen the posts. A friend of a friend posts a screenshot of a post from another friend. In it is a fraught tale of a near abduction. A woman returns to her car and notices cash under the windshield wiper or a plastic bottle in her wheel well. She acts quickly to jump into her car and speeds out of the parking lot with a van of kidnappers close behind, only to drive to a police station and see the culprits foiled.
Abductions do happen, sex trafficking is a real problem, but it often doesn’t play out the way we see on viral social media posts.
A recent post circulating on Facebook presents screenshots of a text and a post, warning of sex traffickers lying in wait in Sioux Falls. These outline a supposed attempted abduction from the Louise Ave. Walmart, and another at the east side Walmart.
Becky Rasmussen, CEO and founder of Call to Freedom, an organization started to help those impacted by sex and labor trafficking, helped explain.
“In the survivor world they say it can harm the overall awareness and education of human trafficking,” said Rasmussen. “If you don’t understand a lot of these trafficking situations are based off of relationships — if you don’t understand, then sometimes you can fall victim to something that you’re not educated about.”
In human trafficking, you typically have to either have force, fraud or coercion in exploitation for sex or labor trafficking, Rasmussen described. “We don’t see that as often,” Rasmussen said of the force category, which would be what posts of this sort describe.
“Traffickers approach this as a business, and they’re really looking for individuals that they can build a relationship with,” Rasmussen said. “Typically they will build a relationship and exploit them throughout that relationship — we’ve had people who have known their trafficker for up to a year before they were actually trafficked by that individual.”
Force, such as kidnapping someone from a parking lot, is more difficult to do, and it is also harder to continue exploiting that person. “If you are using fraud or coercion — it’s easier to keep that victim in that trafficking situation.”
Rasmussen clarified that forceful trafficking, with people taken off the street, can absolutely happen here in the U.S., especially with young kids.
“But we have not seen a lot of those cases — nor zip ties,” Rasmussen said. “We’re very connected in the survivor world across the United States, and survivors talk a lot about these misconceptions that every one of those zip ties is tied to a trafficking situation.”
Like Clemens, Rasmussen advocates vigilance and awareness. That can come in the form of learning about the realities of trafficking, taking defense courses, and yes, calling for help if you feel unsafe.