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Sex and the Oil City

Sex crime and drugs: The dark side of North Dakota’s oil boom

In North Dakota, USA, fracking now allows billions of barrels of oil to be extracted from the Bakken rock formation. In the last ten years, ND has become the country's second-biggest oil-producing state, and it now has the lowest unemployment rate. Oil wells have sprouted all round small agricultural towns like Williston and Watford City. 

The boom has brought a sudden influx of men who work 12-16 hour days for six-figure salaries, so there's now a huge population imbalance with many more men than women. Stressed and lonely oil workers with money to spend are turning to alcohol, drugs and sex, but meeting that demand brings consequences. Bars and adult websites are where the men go to meet prostitutes, many of whom have been trafficked by pimps who force them to have tattoos to brand them as property. Police have been overwhelmed by an exploding crime rate, and many local women have started carrying guns as protection against rising violence. 

RTD meets victims of the sex trade and a survivor advocate who helps them escape the sinister underbelly of a new, oil-fueled Wild West.

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