About ten years ago a woman in my synod became the advocating voice of justice for those being victimized by the sex industry. In then-sparsely populated western North Dakota where we both lived, her message was not always received with open arms. People just didn’t see a problem out here. It seemed a “big city” problem.
This woman died a few years ago, but I believe that if she were still alive today, she would see how much her beloved western North Dakota has changed with our booming economy (caused by the ever-growing oil industry), and she would see that despite her efforts, the sex industry is now alive and well in western North Dakota, and that’s not all.
Before the oil industry took off out here, creating a booming economy in North Dakota, it was extremely rare to hear about gentlemen’s clubs or strip clubs springing up, or of prostitutes trying to do their business in our towns. We didn’t hear about human sex trafficking happening out here, either. Such things are usually not so prevalent in rural areas like ours, but now, with the economy growing and new people coming here from all parts of the country to find work, we are finding that sex clubs, drug rings, malicious gang activity, and crime (including murder) are becoming more and more prevalent, too. (Even as I write this, there is a story being aired on the local news about a human sex trafficking ring that’s being investigated in North Dakota.) Although it is still possible for some to be blissfully unaware of these things (that is, if they don’t watch TV or read the newspapers), these problems do exist.
Our local news is slowing revealing the predators here, letting us know that these predators are not exclusively found in only metro areas, as people from more rural areas would like to believe. We North Dakotans have always liked to joke that the cold winters here help keep the “riffraff” (predators) out, but now we’re learning that isn’t true anymore. Now we’re learning that various kinds of predators are finding their way here under the guise of looking for work along with the vast majority of those who come for legitimate reasons. This is the downside of a booming economy.