When A Victim Isn’t Considered A Victim – Jessica’s Story

Jessica grew up in a very small South Dakota town where she was sexually abused throughout her childhood. She was also a victim of human trafficking. After charges were filed, Jessica’s privacy was violated when the judicial system disclosed information about her identity even though she was a juvenile. She was the only 15-year-old girl in the town where she lived and where everybody knew each other. Once her privacy was shattered, she was harassed to the point where she became suicidal. Marsy’s Law, Amendment S, would have given Jessica a constitutional right to privacy that would have helped protect her.

Jessica’s story is also another example of South Dakota’s weak laws for human trafficking. Victims of certain types of human trafficking are not considered “victims” under the currently codified law in South Dakota. This is unacceptable. All victims of human trafficking deserve constitutional rights and Amendment S will close the loophole in current state law.

South Dakota currently defines a “victim” under SDCL 23A-28C-4 as any person being the direct subject of an alleged act, which would constitute a crime of violence as defined in subdivision 22-1-2(9), simple assault between persons in a relationship described in § 25-10-3.1, stalking as defined in chapter 22-19A, a violation of chapter 22-22, or a driving under the influence vehicle accident, under the laws of South Dakota or the laws of the United States.

Under current South Dakota law, the element of “force” must be present to be considered a “victim” under the legal definition that would trigger some statutory rights. South Dakota Codified Law 22-49-1 prohibits human trafficking and states “No person may recruit, harbor, transport, provide, receive, or obtain, by any means, another person knowing that force, fraud, or coercion will be used to cause the person to engage in prostitution, forced labor, or involuntary servitude. Nor may any person benefit financially or by receiving anything of value from participation in a venture that has engaged in acts set forth in this section. Any violation of this section constitutes the crime of human trafficking.

So the problem is that victims who are coerced or fraudulently tricked into human trafficking are not considered a “victim” under current South Dakota laws. This is important because many young girls, like Jessica, are coerced or fraudulently tricked into human trafficking through careful grooming by their offender. To be recognized as a “victim,” a man or woman would have to clearly be forced to conduct illegal acts and the element of “force” would have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

No rapist should have stronger rights than their victim. Victims of human trafficking deserve constitutional rights equal to the rights of the criminals who abused them. Amendment S will give all victims of human trafficking the rights they deserve and ensure that the privacy of victims, like Jessica, is upheld. In the wake of all they’ve endured, it is surely the least we can do.