Standing Rock fights human trafficking

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STANDING ROCK, N.D. - The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is developing its first immediate protocol and response team for youth trafficking on the reservation.

Standing Rock leaders say there is a lack of services on the reservation for those ages 16 to 22 stuck in the human sex trafficking ring. The creation of a 24-hour crisis response team is aimed at providing resources and services to victims on the reservation.

A nation-wide epidemic, targeting youth on North Dakota reservations.

"They're seeing it in the emergency rooms almost every weekend here. A juvenile that is being raped or addicted to drugs," Tribal Youth Navigator Pauletta Red Willow said.

As the problem increased, the age of women trafficked decreased.

"Victimization is starting at a younger and younger age, were looking at 11 to 14-year-olds that are now being trafficked,” Red Willow said.

Those seeking help on Standing Rock are often referred to outside services.

Now, leaders have created a response team that will be available to victims at any time on the Reservation.

"The purpose of today is to provide resources, to provide aftercare, to provide housing, to provide victim service,” Red Willow said.

Before, the nearest Indian resources were five hours away, in Pine Ridge, S.D.

"If you don't have an immediate response team the generally what will happen is they'll get sucked back in by their trafficker, they'll recant, they'll lose their courage in the moment and then you'll lose them,” Red Willow said.

Now, the much needed resources will be available closer to home.

"People know that this is happening, it is happening, and it’s been happening awhile,” said Alvonne Penola, Lake Oake Youth Shelter.

The tribe hopes to develop group and transitional home in the future to help those in the trafficking ring.

The response team was implemented two weeks ago, and has been in use since.

Leaders hope to bring more community awareness to human trafficking through future programs.