Mary Annette Pember: Abuse leads to trafficking of Native women

The Badlands National Park outside of Rapid City, South Dakota. Photo by D. Luchsinger / NPS

Independent journalist Mary Annette Pember wraps up her series into sex trafficking in Indian Country with a visit to the Great Plains:
Since moving to Rapid City from a reservation in South Dakota, Whiteeagle (not her real name) has struggled with trying to keep her 19-year-old daughter Lina away from sex traffickers. Brutally raped at age 14 by the relatives of a friend on the reservation Lina began engaging in “low-key” prostitution, exchanging sex for drugs according to Whiteeagle.

After the family moved to Rapid City, Lina began hanging around a t-shirt store with girls from other reservations. The girls posed for photos wearing provocative clothing from the store. After days away, Lina would return home visibly intoxicated, with jewelry and money given to her by the men at the store. According to Lina, men frequently had sex with girls in the back room of the store, which had couches and video games. She described being driven to other locations to have sex with men.

Whiteeagle confronted the photographer and owner of the store. “He said he was trying to help Lina by giving her money,” she said. “I told him she has a family, she doesn’t need your help!”

At the urging of ICTMN, Whiteeagle reported her suspicions about illegal activity at the store to Rapid City police. Sergeant Kelvin Moser visited the store but did not witness any illegal activity. “He must have used Lina’s name when he talked with them because the owner called and threatened our family,” Whiteeagle complained.

Sgt. Moser suggested that Whiteeagle take out a restraining order against the man. He insisted it would be best if Lina came forward and became involved in bringing charges.

Whiteeagle was outraged. “What the hell good is a restraining order going to do? That’s just a piece of paper. She doesn’t want to press charges, she just wants to get better, to get away from all of this!”

Get the Story:
Living the Life: Sex Abuse Leads to Sex Trafficking (Indian Country Today 3/9)
Ain’t No Sacajewea (Indian Country Today 3/9)

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