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Category: Fun Facts

Myths & Facts About Human Trafficking

stophumantraffickingDid you know that in 2014, there were 117,000 ads posted on the escort section of in North Dakota soliciting sex? Think about that. Think about how much demand for sex there is in our state- 117,000 posts in one year. Not to mention, that is just one of the many websites where sex is being sold each and every day.
ND is a popular place for trafficking. Most people think that trafficking is an issue in Western ND specific to the oil boom. Yes, the oil boom brought more trafficking, and continues to have large numbers of trafficking. The oil boom also shed light onto this as an issue in ND, but Eastern ND currently has higher numbers of trafficking than the West. Fargo, specifically, is the hub of trafficking in ND. Why Fargo, you ask? Fargo has 2 intersecting interstates for easy travel, it is close to Minneapolis, and high gang/drug activity. Fargo has numerous concerts, events, games, etc.. every single day.


The Process (What is done)
Recruiting, harboring, moving, obtaining, or maintaining a person

The Means (How it is done)
Threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits to a person in control of the victim

The End (Why it is done)
Involuntary servitude, debt bondage, slavery, sex trade, or the removal of organs.

Clear as mud? Let me break it down for you…. If two people are involved in a situation where one person is being used for the other person’s advantage, that would be considered exploitation. Trafficking is similar, but with trafficking there would be a third party benefit. This happens in a variety of different ways in ND. For example, let’s say I am in high school and my boyfriend tells me to sleep with his best friend. He tells me it will only be a one time thing because we do not have money for alcohol this weekend, but if I sleep with his best friend his best friend would supply us the alcohol.
Or, let’s say my mom does not have money to pay for rent this month but she tells the landlord he can sleep with me and we won’t have to pay. Both of these examples are considered trafficking:
There is a victim: the girlfriend and the daughter.
There is a trafficker: the boyfriend and the mother
And there is a consumer: the best friend and the landlord

It is up to you to decide if each of these statements are a myth or a fact.

  1. Human Trafficking means that the victims have to be moving to be considered trafficked.
    Human trafficking can happen anywhere, anytime. It does not mean that someone needs to be moving around on a circuit. Trafficking can occur in one place over and over, like a house or hotel,  and still be considered trafficking. In North Dakota, we see victims from all over the US and some international victims, however more than half of the victims we are serving as service providers are residents on ND, and are sometimes trafficked out of one place and never move around.
    Popular places for trafficking are massage parlors and restaurants.
  2. “Prostitution” is a choice.
    Let me ask you something… In your most loving and healthy relationship do you want to have sex with the person you love 6 times a day, 7 days a week? Of course not! That being said, why would someone want to have sex with 6 strangers a day, 7 days a week? Not knowing who will walk through that door and what freaky fetish they think they can play out on you as an object. And add some violence in there as well….Now, who would honestly choose that? Roughly 5% of people actually choose to utilize ‘sex work’ as their career.
    There are reasons why people get trapped into being  labor trafficked or get trapped into being a prostituted person. Often times, people do not realize they have a choice. As an example, familial pimping is a thing in ND. Familial pimping means a family member is selling someone in their family, whether to make profit from creating porn, get their rent paid, or their drug habit taken care of.  If you were born into a family where this was expected of you, this is normal to you. If your parents, the people you trust, tell you do this and it is ‘normal’, that is what you do.
  3. Children cannot be prosecuted for prostitution.
    FACT (in ND)
    In August of 2015, North Dakota finally passed Safe Harbor Law. This protects those that are under the age of 18 of being charged as a delinquent due to ‘prostitution’. Instead, they are considered deprived children and are offered victim supportive services. Yay! This is a huge win for ND, but not all states have adopted this law. How contradicting, though, that before this law passed, a child who cannot consent to sex legally could be charged with prostitution.
    ND also hired roughly 10 positions specific to combating human trafficking in our state.
    Although we have come a long way in ND, just because people turn 18 does not miraculously mean they can now start making good choices and change their life. ND still has a ways to go in combating this issue, but we are on the right track.
  4. Prostituted persons take advantage of unsuspecting men.
    So, a sex buyer goes online to find someone they want to purchase for sex. They scroll through all the ads/photos. They find one they like, they contact that person and set up a time to meet them. Then, they go to the meeting place and play out their sexual acts with that person and pay them. Now…Let me ask you, at what point was that sex buyer lured into purchasing a human being as a product to do what they want with?
  5. Taken and Pretty Woman are accurate movies displaying what happens in trafficking.
    Although we see international trafficking where kidnapping takes place, this is not the case. This is not all that trafficking is. Most trafficking in ND takes place by a boyfriend ‘grooming’ a victim or forcing them against their will into prostitution, or it is familial pimping as I described earlier.
    Also, Pretty Woman is not what ‘prostitution’ looks like. Richard Gear is not knocking on your door with flowers and drawing you a bath. That just does not happen.
  6. Trafficking is a new issue for ND.
    Trafficking has been around since the beginning of time. Yes, the oil boom shed light onto this horrific issue in our state, but it did not start it. People think that ‘ND nice’ attitude comes full circle in this state, but not when it comes to trafficking and its prevalence. There is a reason we refer to human trafficking as modern day slavery, because it is similar to and just as much of an issue as slavery was.
  7. Human trafficking is what you see in the media: blonde haired, blue eyed girls shivering in a corner with handcuffs on.
    You will not always recognize trafficking, and often times we have all come into contact with or worked with someone that was involved in or exposed to sex or labor trafficking. Often times, my coworkers and I chuckle when we Google ‘human trafficking’ or see posters up in the community. We chuckle because when we see these ads, they give a false idea of what trafficking is. Victims we work with may attend school every day, they may have a full time job, they may have children, etc.. and we would never know they were involved in such a horrific experience because they can appear to be ‘normal’. On the flip side, pimps or sex buyers could be your neighbor, your teacher, your pastor….There is no specific way to detect those that may be involved.
  8. Traffickers may brand their victims with tattoos like farmers brand their cattle.
    Traffickers want all control over the lives of their victims. Sometimes traffickers even have their victims get tattoos as a sign of ownership over them. It is a physical and mental manipulation tactic they utilize. A while back, the bar code tattoo was really popular in trafficking, and a bar code number could even be searched online to decipher which pimp that victim belonged to. It is all about control and manipulation in trafficking, and this is a popular way that traffickers ‘prove’ their ownership.
  9. All traffickers/pimps are male.
    Although we typically see male pimps, female victims, and male buyers, this is not always the case. We too see male victims of trafficking (sex or labor), female pimps or ‘madams’, and female buyers. This scenario is just less common in ND, but it does happen.
  10. Victims want to be referred to as victims.
    The term ‘victim’ can sound very degrading or powerless to people. I utilize the word ‘victim’ in my trainings/education because it is a universal term that people understand. However, I would never assume that someone is a victim of trafficking or would refer to themselves as such. ‘Victim’ could sound to someone as if they are weak and have been taken advantage of. People need time to understand what has happened to them, and that they have been taken advantage of. Once people heal and come to terms with this, they may be okay referring to themselves as a victim, as a survivor, or as an over-comer, but sometimes they do not want to at all associate with this, and that is okay.
  11. Porn and stripping are gateways into getting involved in sex trafficking.
    Porn and stripping have huge ties to the world of trafficking. Typically this could be how someone becomes exposed to trafficking or is groomed or forced into it. Sometimes porn is made with victims without their knowledge, and used as blackmail against them. When victims get involved into trafficking at a young age (average age in US right now is 15), some traffickers force them to watch porn and manipulate them into thinking that the violent and degrading sex they expose them to is normal and healthy.
    Unfortunately, many of the victims we work with in ND have this as a common denominator.
    On the flip side, porn and stripping can be associated with how buyers get obsessed with ‘prostitution’. Buyers see and become addicted to the stripping and porn worlds thinking that this behavior is normal. But, when they aren’t receiving that from their significant other, they assume that they can play out their fetishes on someone else and treat them as a product.
  12. Social media is a large risk factor for trafficking. Everyone uses social media therefore everyone could be at risk.
    Social media probably plays into 90% of what we are seeing in ND. Please make sure your children’s GPS is turned off, not only on their settings but also in their phone apps. Traffickers can find their victims through social media very easily, and they do. For example, a 15 year old girl is at the mall with her friends and posts a selfie on Twitter that says ‘looking to have some fun tonight, hit me up!’. A trafficker can go to the mall, pull up an app on his phone that finds all the social media posts from the mall, and sees that girl’s selfie post. He can then click on it and it will pull up a map taking him directly to her location when she posted that selfie. Scary, huh?
    Ever heard of Catfishing? People can easily pretend to be someone they’re not over social media, and trick others into thinking they have a loving relationship with them. This is a huge gateway into being trafficked, and it can be violent.
    Survival sex in our state is also a big issue, and social media plays into that as well. If mom kicks out her 17 year old daughter and it’s -30 degrees out, what is she to do? If you’re up against survival, you’ll do next to anything to have a warm place to stay, some clothes, and a little food. A 17 year old can post on any social media site that she needs a place to stay, and I can promise you that some sketchy people will reach out to her offering her something she cannot refuse.
  13. All ‘prostitutes’ are drug/alcohol addicts.
    Although very common, this is not always the case. Sometimes, traffickers force victims to start using drugs even as forcefully as putting a needle in their arm. Once their addiction is formed, victims feel a need to stick with their trafficker to get their drug fix as it is a form of survival for them. If you were being beaten/raped daily, you too may use drugs/alcohol to cope with this horrific lifestyle. Other times, victims have drug/alcohol addictions prior to their involvement into the life. Their trafficker promises an ongoing supply of drugs/alcohol if you ‘just do this simple thing for me’, and then they get sucked in.
  14. There is little money that goes into human trafficking each year.
    Worldwide, roughly $150 billion is the growing amount that this industry takes in per year. Un-taxed, undocumented money.
  15. Stockholm Syndrome is displayed with trafficking.
    Google ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ if you are unfamiliar with this concept. This is what happens with trafficking therefore trauma bonds are formed. When people ask me, ‘why don’t they just leave?’, it is important to know that they can’t. It is not an option to just leave. Partly because Stockholm Syndrome/trauma bonds have been formed with their trafficker. If their trafficker has been providing their basic needs for them and no one else does, it is hard to leave that situation. If their trafficker has their children, it is hard to leave. If their trafficker threatens their life or the lives of those they love, it is hard to leave.
  16. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) with trafficking victims is just as significant as someone on the front lines of battle.
    There is is so much trauma involved in trafficking that these victims are really tough to work with. They need so many services and tons of support. When there is a significant amount of trauma built up, there is a lot that these victims need to heal from, and it is a long battle.
  17. Victims of human trafficking have an average lifespan of 7 years once they enter.
    If I get involved into trafficking when I am 12 years old, chances of me living until I am 19 are pretty slim. This is due to drug/alcohol overdoses, suicide, violence from the pimps/buyers, or infections/diseases.

    Pretty terrifying information, huh? It is hard to wrap our heads around this unknown and unfamiliar world of trafficking, but it is out there and our awareness is vital to combating this issue.

    We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them ~

    -keep shining
    (Like and share my Facebook page for ongoing updates and blog posts!

    Click here for human trafficking specific Youtube videos:
    MTV , America’s Daughters, Chosen, Native American

The Future Is Not Real


Breaking News:
There is no such thing as the future. The future is our make-believe. It is where we think up the most exciting parts of our lives, as well as where we create some seriously stressful situations.
Our mind is where we are predicting a future while simultaneously missing out on the present moments in our lives.

My thoughts about the future are chaotic. Sometimes I think of things that I assume will happen, and get really excited when they do. But other times, my thoughts of the future  leave me really disappointed when life does not pan out the way I assumed. Does this ever happen to you?
On the flip side, sometimes I assume certain stressful or scary situations are going to occur, and they never do. It is true, after all, that 90% of what we stress about each day does not happen. The what if’s, just in case’s, but’s, the what would happen if’s…..They are endless.

The truth? The stressful thoughts do not predict our future, and neither do the positive assumptions.
Think about how much time we waste focusing on the make-believe future instead of what is right in front of us. We lose out on many moments in life because our focus is on what’s coming next, instead of the ‘now’. We need to focus on the ‘now’ to develop a more confident, focused, and successful self. The ‘now’ helps us to learn gratitude and patience for what is coming next since we are content in our present self.

I challenge you to think this thought: I am open-minded towards the future and what is or is not going to happen…
Think about the relief that can come with this thought when you truly believe it. We do not need to worry about things panning out perfectly, or be disappointed when they don’t. Sometimes we have no control over parts of our lives or the paths we are meant to take, and we just have to accept that- plain and simple.

The unpredictability of our life path is fun, it’s exciting, and it’s how we learn to be our best selves. We cannot plan our futures, but we can focus on what is in our control and what is going well right now. What am I enjoying right now in this moment, and how can I capitalize on that?
Let’s start turning away from focusing on the ‘what-you-want-is-what-will-be-the-reality’ frame of mind. We can focus on what we want, loosely, while also understanding that life takes you down an unpredictable stream, and we can’t craft our future as we envision. Stuff happens, and if we want to make the most out of life we must be flexible and open to this.
I will challenge you to work on some grounding techniques which can be researched easily online, or check out my past blog on grounding. <—click here

Think about how many curve balls you’ve been thrown in your life, and how those got you to the present moment….
What have been some life changing moments in your life?
Once you determine those moments, think about how your life may be different now had those curve balls never been thrown your way.
That is pretty incredible, isn’t it? And I bet it was unpredictable too!

The future belongs to those who believe in the power of now.
-keep shining

Abuse vs. Dependence


There is a lot of gray area and uncertainty when it comes to addiction, and one area in particular is the differences between substance abuse vs. dependence. Addiction comes in many different forms, and looks different for everyone affected. Not only is the person who is addicted affected, but so is their family and friends, coworkers, and everyone they come in contact with. Both abuse and dependence are considered an addiction, regardless of how often or how much of the drug is consumed. The difference between the two relates to the way the addiction affects the individual’s every day life, and how it affects those around them.
This topic strikes a cord with me because of the many former patients with addiction I had the opportunity to work with. Some of those patients would not see binge drinking on occasion, for example, as an addiction. This would make working on a treatment plan for these individuals challenging as they would not view their drug use as an addiction, therefore obtaining treatment felt unnecessary to them. This was always concerning to me because of course I wanted those patients to get better! But, the choice must come from the patient to want to receive the help and understand that there may be an issue to come to terms with. There are many different ways to receive help, and sometimes obtaining treatment from a facility may feel intimidating and foreign. There are many other ways to receive help, and I want people to know that!

Below is more detailed information on abuse and dependence which can be helpful in deciding what type of treatment to utilize or how to ask for help, and having a better understanding of addiction in general.

Substance use that harms you physically and/or your mental health causing anxiety, pain, or sorrow.

  • Ongoing legal problems related to substance use (DUI, paraphernalia…).
  • Continuing to use substances even though it is causing problems in your social  life (canceling plans, arguing with peers, physical fights…).
  • Repeated substance use which affects your ability to complete responsibilities in your home life (spending time with family, getting yard work completed…), affects your ability to work (late, ‘no-show’), or affecting your ability to be successful in school.
  • Repeated substance use regardless of the usage being physically dangerous (drinking and driving, unsanitary needle use…).

A pattern of substance use leading to pain, sorrow, or anxiety if demonstrated in 3 or more points below:

  • The individual often takes the substance in mass amounts, or for longer periods than they expected.
  • There is ongoing, unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control the substance use.
  • A lot of the individual’s time is spent in activities closely related to substance use or that provide the ability to gain the substance (selling drugs, working at a bar….).
  • Give up or greatly reduce enjoyable social or recreational activities due to ongoing usage.
  • Tolerance- a need for increased amounts of the substance to obtain intoxication or the sought-after affect. Or the substance seeming to be less effective over time with the same amount of consumption. (If typically it would take a person 5 beers to be intoxicated, over time this would increase to 10 beers before the individual felt any effects.)
  • Withdrawal- if the definition/attributes of withdrawal for the specific substance being abused is what the individual’s symptoms are. Or the same substance is taken to avoid/relieve the withdrawal symptoms. (Waking up and consuming alcohol to avoid a hangover).
  • The individual lies about their using or is in denial of their use.

*There are self assessment tools available online to help people determine if they are suffering from either abuse or dependence.
As mentioned earlier, both abuse and dependence are considered an addiction. This is so important to understand when trying to come to terms with addiction and get the help you, or someone you know, may need.

Steps to take to help yourself or someone you know:

  • Utilize an online self assessment tool to gain a better understanding of your addiction.
  • Research research research! There is TONS of helpful information and resources for free on the internet.
  • Tell someone you trust about your addiction. Recovering from addiction is much easier when you have guidance, support, and encouragement from others. It is so easy to fall back on old patterns when you do not gain support and understanding from others.
  • Attend NA/AA meetings in your area (trust me, there are tons being offered daily)
  • Challenge yourself- try to eliminate substance use for a certain amount of time to see if you’re able to accomplish that. With time, hopefully you notice how much better, clearer, healthier, and happier you feel. Setting goals, such as this challenge, is great practice in figuring out what you are capable of accomplishing on your own!
  • Think about how your substance use is affecting things in your life that are important to you. Remind yourself not only to make the change for yourself, but also for the people and things you love.
  • Speak with an addiction counselor or individual therapist (your information is kept confidential). Most addictions are the root of a pre-existing problem such as depression or trauma.
  • Contact local agencies who specialize in addiction to discuss options they have to assist you. Check online to find options in your area.

Please remember that it takes courage to get the help you need. It is no easy task; do not give up on yourself. Most addicts are not successful on their first try, and that is okay! Any amount of time sober is worth celebrating. Be proud of yourself for recognizing there is an issue. Be proud of yourself for attempting to gain education and get the help you need. It takes time, commitment, and motivation to make the change and become a healthier you. We all know change is hard, so if you’re prepared and ready for that you can make this happen!

Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle. Create a life you can be proud of.

keep shining



What I Have Learned About Addiction….


One area of work I particularly have a lot of interest in and have learned a lot about is addiction. There are a lot of opinions out there on addiction, and I would like to share mine based on my experiences with addicts.

  • Addiction can be genetic, and this can come out in many different ways. The disease of addiction, as a whole, can be genetic. For example- let’s say my father is an alcoholic, that is his addiction. I am susceptible to any kind of addiction, not just alcoholism. So I may not drink alcohol but I am more opt to be addicted to porn, shopping, gambling, etc… Interesting, isn’t it?! Keep in mind, though, that there are many circumstances where an individual’s addiction does not stem from their genetics, but from the environment they are in.
  • Some addicts replace one addiction with another. Let’s say an alcoholic is trying to keep their mind off of walking down the block to their favorite bar. They may try doing something else to keep their mind off of it- like online shopping. So yes it’s great that they are not drinking, as that is super challenging itself, however, a new addiction then takes over. This is common with smoking. I have seen a lot of alcoholics be successful in discontinuing their habit, but start smoking cigarettes to help ease the stress they are feeling.
  • Praise addicts for their sobriety! Whether it’s 1 day or 10 years that is something to be proud of! Any amount of time sober is difficult and deserves to be recognized. Don’t get upset with yourself or someone you know who stays sober for 2 weeks and then “slips”. Two weeks is a step in the right direction. Be proud.
  • Recovering addicts must focus on themselves, which to us may appear to be, well, selfish. In my opinion, recovering addicts are recovering for their whole life. Personally, I do not believe people are no longer addicts even if they are sober 20 years. Addiction is a disease of the brain and recovering addicts need to be conscious of their decisions to not trigger themself to want to break their sobriety. In recovery, people need to really focus on what triggers them(certain people, places, smells, etc) . You may have a friend with an addiction who no longer wants to hang out, or often takes charge of what your plans are. They are not trying to be rude or bossy. It’s because their recovery must come first. Their life cannot be fulfilled if they are using, so making the decisions themselves and focusing on their own needs is the best way for them to ensure they are not going to use.
  • Addiction is a disease of the brain. This is not a choice, people! Chronic addicts are working around the clock to get that next high. They are constantly thinking about how to get their next fix because the disease tells their brain and body they need it. That’s exhausting work, 24 hours a day. What addict would want to choose their addiction over their family? They wouldn’t. They have a disease and need help. Let me tell you that it is heartbreaking watching addicts go down a path where they are more opt to loose their job or family, and other valuable things. If addicts could function without their brains telling them they need something, they would rarely choose to lose the things that mean the most to them.
  • Chronic addicts often lie, a lot. Lying and addiction go hand-in-hand. When I have worked with addicts in the past, they typically would say their family knew if they were using again because they started again with the lies. Addicts will typically want to hide their using, so lying becomes the only way they know how to communicate. It almost acts as a second addiction, and is very hard to break. Addicts want to protect themselves from the consequences of their actions. Lying may assist is helping addicts feel in control because they have manipulated others into believing them. Typically, lies also are ways in which addicts stay in denial. A lot of times they are trying to convince themselves more than they are trying to convince us.
  • Withdrawals are extremely painful and exhausting. Take the worst flu you’ve ever had a times that by 100, seriously. It’s unimaginable . And speaking of withdrawals, the only drug you can die from strictly through the withdrawal process is alcohol which makes quitting cold turkey really difficult and potentially dangerous. This is not to be confused with an overdose as most drugs can cause death with an overdose.
  • People never believe me when I tell them you can experience withdrawals from weed, but it’s true. Or how about caffeine? I bet if you tried stopping caffeine for a week your head would hurt constantly during the weaning process! Caffeine and weed do cause withdrawals and you are able to become addicted. Yes, weed is an addictive drug. Sorry to all you “green” folks out there- it’s true. Your mind and body crave the stuff just like any other drug. I have worked with numerous individuals who needed rehab for weed and it is a difficult, long process for them.
  • One thing I always recommend for addicts or family members of addicts is to take things slowly. Even thinking about a full day- taking things 24 hours at a time- may feel impossible to an addict. That can be overwhelming and scary. Sometimes, addicts need to take one minute at a time and just focus on each minute specifically. That is okay! Help them in the process. If they are making steps to change that is a huge step in the right direction. Help guide them in that direction and be a positive support. They need encouragement and love, and will appreciate it! Patience is key in this step.
  • Behind addiction is typically a lot of hurt. Many addicts start using for a reason, sometimes not even knowing why until they dig a little deeper into their past. Some addicts use their addiction as a self-medication technique. Whether they want to forget about something that happened, avoid a situation, avoid their feelings, etc. Drugs and alcohol, and other forms of addiction, can be a great self-medicator and it quickly becomes an addiction before one may even realize it.

So there you have it- things I have learned through working with addicts. Be kind, be patient. You cannot change an addict, they must want the change themselves. You cannot work harder than they do in their recovery, which is difficult for a lot of close family members and friends to accept.  When they come to the realization that they want to be sober it can be life changing, and they will need your support. Be the support they need.

-keep shining