There’s a new face at the domestic violence shelter to help individuals and the community confront the issues surrounding human trafficking.
Last month, Yankton’s River City Domestic Violence Center (RCDVC) welcomed Emma Grate as its new anti-human trafficking coordinator.
“My goals (in this position) are to increase public education and awareness about human trafficking as much as possible,” Grate told the Press & Dakotan. “I also want to try to be the best possible advocate that I can be.”
Grate, who completed her degree in political science and criminal justice in 2020, was working as a 911 dispatcher for Clay Area Emergency Services in Vermillion when she heard about the position opening up in Yankton.
Working in emergency services sparked a true desire to help people, especially victims, she said.
“I had some knowledge about human trafficking from college, and I was intrigued,” Grate said. “As a dispatcher, you get a few minutes to make an impact. Here, you get a lot more than a few minutes to help people.”
Human trafficking involves the exploitation of a person through force, fraud or coercion.
“Human trafficking is a big, overarching term,” she said. “Sexual assault and domestic violence are often components of human trafficking. They’re a means of power and control.”
Unfortunately, many victims of trafficking endure one or more types of abuse as well, Grate said.
But, it’s important to remember that human trafficking can take the form of forced labor, she noted.
“Human trafficking is the No. 2 criminal industry,” Grate said. “Drugs is No. 1.”
RCDVC provides shelter for individuals leaving abusive situations, including human trafficking, domestic abuse, child abuse and sexual abuse.
Services offered by RCDVC include completing and filing protection orders, victim compensation forms and emergency financial aid, as well as providing court advocacy during protection order proceedings or support and security during a sexual assault examination.
“We’re just getting people transitioned back into life,” she said, “getting them a new place to live, new job, health care and counseling to deal with the trauma and get them back on their feet.”
The job also requires advocates to build trust with their clients, Grate said.
“It’s showing victims that we care, we’re here for them and we’re here because we want to help,” she said. “At the end of the day, we’re all human and we all have the same basic needs.”
According to its website, the organization also “exists to break the cycle of these traumas in our community through survivor empowerment, advocacy, education, awareness and social change.”
In addition to supporting survivors of trafficking, the anti-human trafficking coordinator is also involved in educational outreach.
“A big part of my position is public education and giving presentations,” she said. “People will reach out and say they want to learn about human trafficking, and about the signs of human trafficking, so I will put together presentations and go out in the public and educate.”
Grate, who is just getting started in her new position, will also be involved in public awareness campaigns throughout the year, particularly during Human Trafficking Awareness Month in January.
“I am a victim advocate,” she said. “I’m here to educate the public on what human trafficking is, what human trafficking looks like and the warning signs of human trafficking. So if there’s any group or person that wants to learn more about human trafficking, I encourage them to reach out.”
For more information visit: www.yanktondomesticviolencecenter.com or call the business line at 605-665-4811.