Human trafficking in Montana
I am a registered nurse, domestic violence advocate, and prosecutor who has dedicated my career working for children and people in need. As a prosecutor I fought against human trafficking on the front lines: I stood up for children victimized by parents when those parents permitted other adults to engage in sexual acts with their children in exchange for drugs. As a legislator, I fought to pass legislation to protect citizens’ rights, ensure justice for crime victims, uphold children’s rights, and strengthen Montana’s families. There is still more to do — especially about human trafficking in our state.
Human trafficking is modern day slavery. It is criminal behavior where women, children, and men engage in labor or commercial sexual activity through force, fraud, or coercion. A 2014 International Labour Organization report indicated human traffickers worldwide earn profits of approximately $150 billion annually.
Human trafficking is a problem in Montana that is finally coming to light. Sadly, trafficking cases in Montana continue to increase. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, since 2007, 125 human trafficking cases were reported in Montana with 22 cases reported in 2018 alone. But even the most aggressive estimates underreport the true numbers in Montana because many cases are not reported at all.
Money drives the industry, especially sex trafficking where victims are seen as a reusable commodity that can generate large amounts of money for traffickers. Two different types of exploiters exist in sex trafficking — traffickers and buyers. In Montana we not only hold traffickers criminally accountable, I pushed legal changes so we also go after the demand for sex trafficking by holding those who patronize a victim of human trafficking, providing a market for sex trafficking, accountable. We further specially protect children by providing harsher criminal penalties when the victim of human trafficking is a child.
Human trafficking is based on vulnerability — especially sex trafficking. Vulnerable people are targeted by traffickers and frequently subjected to “grooming.” The trafficker acts initially as a provider and safety net, but eventually isolates a victim and physically and psychologically controls her (importantly, it happens to males and females). The trafficker many times convinces her to engage in sex trafficking. Individuals, especially women and girls in our Indigenous communities, may be especially vulnerable. This is thought to be related to Montana’s epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous people.
What you can do to stop human trafficking
We are not powerless against this slavery — we can take steps to prevent it. Everyone can be part of the solution. These are steps you can take:
1. Educate yourself about the signs of human trafficking so you can identify it when you see it. You can do this as an individual, business, educator, law enforcement officer, trucker, or first responder, among other groups. A complete list of common signs is available at the National Human Trafficking Hotline website and includes:
- Poor mental health or abnormal behavior, including appearing submissive and fearful, answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed, and lack of knowledge about whereabouts;
- Poor physical health, including signs of physical abuse;
- Lack of control, including an inability to speak alone and a lack of belongings or own money;
- Poor work conditions, including being unpaid or paid very little and an employer who holds identity documents;
- Poor living conditions, including living with an employer or at a worksite, many people living in a cramped space or poor basic living conditions; and
- Suspicious or concerning behaviors, including signs of substance abuse or addiction and being under 18 and engaging in commercial sex.
2. If you are concerned someone is a victim of human trafficking and you are in the United States, contact authorities at 911 or call the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1–888–373–7888. If someone is a trafficking victim, including undocumented individuals, they are eligible for assistance.
3. Find local community organizations, such as Soroptimist, Zonta, and some churches, that work to combat human trafficking and become involved in their events.
4. Learn more through public awareness materials such as those from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security so you are well-informed.
5. Learn more about modern day slavery by watching a documentary about how trafficking is involved with global food supply chains or what sex trafficking looks like in the United States, including rural areas.
6. Support and volunteer at anti-trafficking efforts in your community. Locate local human trafficking task forces that focus on stopping human trafficking and find out about any local events they have.
7. Businesses can help survivors establish themselves after they are trafficked by offering jobs, training, or other opportunities.
8. As a health care provider, learn the signs of human trafficking and how to assist a survivor.
9. Offer human trafficking victims legal services if you are an attorney.
10. Students can take action at their school or campus to host events or establish a club to raise awareness about human trafficking and take further actions in the community.
11. Encourage local schools to include age-appropriate education about human trafficking to raise awareness of children and how they can protect themselves and their friends.
12. Host an event to raise awareness about human trafficking by screening a film, have experts talk, and have a conversation about human trafficking. Work with local groups that are already focusing on this issue.
13. Contact your local, state, and federal representatives to let them know you are concerned about human trafficking and want to know what they are doing to combat it.
As a legislator I fought for reforms in Montana’s human trafficking laws to better protect our communities and help those who have survived this atrocity repair their lives — especially children.
As Montana Attorney General, I will continue to fight to stop modern day slavery by raising awareness of the issue, encouraging the actions outlined above, and continuing to strengthen our laws and legal processes to effectively provide the tools necessary to combat human trafficking and help survivors. Together we can stop modern day slavery in Montana and I look forward to leading our fight.
Kimberly Dudik, (“Kim Dudik”)
Member, Montana House of Representatives
Rep. Kimberly Dudik is a champion of human trafficking and child protection reforms in Montana, having served for four terms in the state Legislature fighting for meaningful child welfare and criminal justice reforms. Kim Dudik is currently a Democratic candidate for Attorney General. She can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Kimberly has served the people of Montana as a registered nurse specializing in neonatal intensive care, a Deputy Gallatin County Attorney, and an Assistant Montana Attorney General. She is Chairperson for the Legislative Finance Committee, Chairperson for the Council of State Governments West, and Immediate Past Chairwoman of the National Foundation for Women Legislators.
Paid for by Friends of Kimberly Dudik, P.O. Box 674, Frenchtown, MT 59834, Kelly Gallinger (Billings), Treasurer — Democrat