“Human Trafficking in the Dakotas” is a first-of-its-kind in South Dakota conference for law enforcement officials, social service workers or health care providers who confront, respond to and battle human trafficking – a malevolent violation of human rights and crimes involving the abduction and transporting of women or young adults. The daylong symposium, which is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. with registration, includes panel discussions, open sessions with invited guests and keynote speakers such as Kevin Koliner, Chief Appellate Division, U.S. Attorney General’s Office for South Dakota and Linda Miller, executive director, Civil Society, St. Paul Minn.

“People aren’t really aware that it’s going on in our community,” noted Elizabeth Talbot, Ph.D., M.S.W., associate professor and director of the Master of Social Work program at USD. “But it’s very important that we educate the public, educate children and young adults and teach the public to become proactive in the fight against human trafficking.”

Talbot, who will provide opening remarks at 9:15 a.m. for the conference, has studied the issue for more than a decade and knows full well the consequences of human trafficking, particularly on its victims. She is currently doing research with Yumi Suzuki, Ph.D., assistant professor of criminal justice in the College of Arts & Sciences at USD, on identifying the cause and effects of human trafficking on victims and their families.

“Interest in this topic has increased over the past few years,” Suzuki explained. “Traffickers know how the system works. They are motivated by money and control their victims by fear and violence. They force their victims to do things against their will.”

While the conference is designed to familiarize first responders, social service workers and law enforcement agencies on the best practices, new developments and recent cases of human trafficking, Talbot said that it’s also a forum for educating the public on what to look for in their own communities and how to identify individuals susceptible to these types of crimes.

“South Dakota has the type of climate to support human trafficking,” Talbot added. “Traffickers take advantage of women and teens living in poverty, looking for ways to get out. They can be used as anything from labor to sex trade. That’s why it’s important for more than just first responders to get involved.”

Registration for the conference is free, with the exception of individuals who purchase a box lunch to be provided at $10. Donations are also accepted and will be used to help defray costs of the event. For more information or to register for “Human Trafficking in the Dakotas,” please go to http://traffickinginthedakotas.eventbrite.com or visit www.facebook.com/pages/Civil-Society/261831197294995.

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