Steve Sternhagen is a Youth Navigator in the Call to Freedom organization located in Sioux Falls. Call to Freedom is an anti-human trafficking organization that provides supportive services for those affected by human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation in South Dakota. A large part of Sternhagen’s job is doing public presentations to groups of students all over South Dakota. Sanborn Central invited him to come to their school and speak to the students in grades seven through 12 on Wednesday, March 22.
Due to the nature of the subject area, Sternhagen spoke to the students in grades nine through 12 first and then had a second session with the seventh and eighth graders. His presentation included a power point with videos explaining real-life situations that young people have found themselves in that have made them victims of sex or human trafficking. With the help of the visual aids, Sternhagen explained what human trafficking and sexual exploitation, or sex trafficking are, and he described the tactics used by offenders on their victims. He went through the six stages of grooming used by traffickers to lure and manipulate their victims into doing what they want them to. He also explained the methods the criminals use to keep them in the trafficking rings. The common question asked is “Why don’t the victims run from the terrible people keeping them,” and the answer is the offenders control the victims with drugs or threats on members of their family to keep them from escaping, and victims are ashamed to admit they got involved in such a criminal act.