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THIS IS LIFE WITH LISA LING
Aired November 1, 2014 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LISA LING, CNN HOST (voice-over): There`s a place in America where for decades people farmed the land. Everyone knew each other, and the pace was slow. And then -- almost overnight, things changed. It`s all because of something found deep underground. Something that brought men from every corner of America. They`ve come by the thousands to extract it from the earth. And now, women want in on the action.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never thought this body could work the hours that the oil fields call for.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s nights where I`ve left here with over a thousand dollars in tips. It`s absolutely crazy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let`s just say the boomtown was not ready for me.
LING: But opportunity has a dark side.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I started hearing reports of girls as young as 14 propositioned to work in the oil fields.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is our town, and I want it back.
LING: Welcome to the North Dakota oil boom. It`s not just for men anymore.
Every day in North Dakota, about a million barrels of oil are being pumped out of the ground. It`s a year-round drilling frenzy that requires thousands of workers, and serious muscle. But the rewards are high for those who can hack it.
Give me a sense of how much these guys make.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have floor hands that make $100,000. My son made $118,000 last year.
LING: How old is he?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty-four.
LING: In the oil patch, six-figure salaries are the norm. They use the controversial drilling process called fracking. But that`s not the story I`m here to find. This s state, where there are more cattle than people way up north on the Canadian border is one of the few places in America where well-paying jobs are in abundance. And the word has gotten out.
This is the Williston, North Dakota, job fair. In this room over 100 employers ready to hire on the spot.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you looking for a job?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you`re looking for something, we can get you something.
LING: One of the organizers told me, if you are looking for a job and you`re employable, there`s a very, very good chance you`ll walk out of here with a job.
It`s not just men. Amongst this sea of Braun, I meet a surprising number of women.
Where are you from?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Traverse city, Michigan.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Port line (ph), Idaho.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m from northern California.
LING: What had you heard about it before coming?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was a lot of money, and a lot of men, and a lot of mud.
LING: So you said, I`m in?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
LING: What brought you out to Williston?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tired of making $7.35 an hour. Anything that is better than what you make back home $12,000 a year back home. You know, everybody`s at poverty level.
LING: 30-year-old Crystal was struggling to support herself and her 11-year-old son when she decided she needed to do something drastic.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just drove here a week ago from Florida.
LING: From Florida, that`s a long drive.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was, 32 hours by myself, me and the lord.
LING: Let me get this straight. You didn`t have a job lined up?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. (INAUDIBLE)
LING: And what drew you to Williston? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Money, really. I came here for a new start,
hopefully. Everything works out. Never been up north, never seen snow, so really, I am stepping out on faith.
I am looking for help.
LING: Like many others, Crystal is betting on the boom to give her a fresh start. While she`s risked a lot to come here, the odds are in her favor. For the last five years, North Dakota has had the lowest unemployment rate in the nation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s lots of jobs. Figure there`s right around three jobs for every person here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congratulations, you`re our first woman mechanic we`ve hired. So how about that?
LING: In most of America, job searches can last months or years.
How long have you been looking for a job?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ten hours.
LING: Ten hours and you got one in ten hours?
This mechanic is breaking a ceiling of sorts. A woman doing what some consider a man`s job. Others have found success playing to a different kind of strength.
So in response to the massive influx of men here, a number of unique businesses have sprung up, and are flourishing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, guys, what can I do for you?
This is 26-year-old Nisa. A woman using her brain and her body to tap into this booming economy of men.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, here you go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bye-bye.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: See you.
LING: Two years ago, she left her home in Seattle to launch boomtown babes, a coffee stand, serving espresso, with an extra shot of sex appeal.
Do you ever feel like your business is based on sort of the objectification of women?
NISA, 26-YEARS-OLD: The ratio is a hundred guys for every girl, I mean, so the answer is yes. Good coffee, sexy women, sex sells. I mean, let`s be real here.
LING: How was it received when you first opened?
NISA: Let`s just say the boomtown was not ready for me. When I first moved here, I got, those girls are strippers. There`s tons of rumors and tons of bullshit. I`m like, no, I`m a hard-working girl. Saved my money since I was 18 to move here and start my own business, so thank you.
LING: Why do you guys like this place?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re beautiful girls. Look at them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they actually do have excellent coffee.
LING: Yes. What does it mean to have a place like this in Williston?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We work on the rig. We`re around nothing but dudes all day every day. We live with them. So coming to see the pretty girls is nice.
NISA: I feel very blessed. Like I bought an escalade, I think it was my first month of business.
LING: You`re kidding?
NISA: I`m doing awesome.
LING: And the girls obviously make really great tips.
NISA: Yes. Thank you, have a good one.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bye.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cute outfits.
LING: And how much did you make that day in tips?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In tips, I can make a hundred.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
LING: As baristas?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m the number one customer.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Number one.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Make it rain!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rain!
NISA: So, do you think we`re crazy, Lisa ling?
LING: I don`t think you`re crazy. I mean, I wish I had thought of it. But I don`t have any tits and ass so I couldn`t -- you know.
NISA: Money can always buy you that.
LING: OK. There you go.
Today was our first full day in Williston, North Dakota. There were so many different people, from all different walks of life. All of them have come to this place. The one place in all of the United States where people can be virtually guaranteed a job that will then change their lives and the lives of their families.
LING (voice-over): The epicenter of the boom is Williston, North Dakota. In the last four years, this once sleepy farm town has doubled in population. Every rig that goes up here brings another influx of traffic, and testosterone. So what do you do when thousands and thousands of men descend upon small prairie towns? You build a bunch of man camps.
This is the target logistics man camp, a sprawling pop-up village build on what used to be an empty field. Over a thousand men call this place home.
This place is hardly luxurious. But most of the guys who live here, live here for free and get free meals.
Even though they work really hard and have long hours, they can save a lot of money.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See you later.
LING: In the oil fields, the economics are simple. Keep your overhead down, so you can send as much money home as possible. But not every jobseeker is lucky enough to snag an all-inclusive package.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, mom.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How you doing?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Say, hi, Na.
LING: Helen, a mother of four from northern California, said goodbye to her family and moved to North Dakota two years ago.
HELEN, MOTHER: So you`re doing good in school and everything`s going OK?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Things are going great.
HELEN: Drive safely.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I always do, mom.
HELEN: OK, love you, love you, love you. Bye.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bye.
LING: Someone in there?
Helen arrived in Williston with no job and nowhere to live.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi.
LING: And that left her with only one choice.
HELEN: How are you?
LING: So cumulatively, how long did you live in the van? A month?
HELEN: Four months.
LING: Four months!
HELEN: Four months.
LING: This parking lot for big rigs was Helen`s first home.
HELEN: This is my van. It makes into a really nice bed, and I had shelving inside there. I had it set up like a bedroom.
LING: Couldn`t you have found a place?
HELEN: Rent is really expensive. I just wanted to really save as much money as I could. Get myself jump-started on my plan to financially put myself in a better situation.
LING: Seven years ago, Helen and her husband had a successful real estate investment business. She thought she`d saved up enough to semi- retire and help pay for her youngest daughter`s college education.
HELEN: I lived in a house that was worth probably 1.5 million. I bought this beautiful house on the lake. I was living life really, really above average. And then I ended up getting separated. And then it just was like a snowball effect.
LING: When the recession hit, it decimated her savings. To salvage the life she was trying to build, Helen ventured to North Dakota on her own, leaving her youngest daughter in the care of her eldest.
HELEN: This is a really hard place for families to come to.
LING: I`m just trying to imagine, you`ve worked all of your life, and you`re over 50 years old. You`ve come out here to the middle of nowhere, and you live in your van for four months. Were there ever times when you just wanted to turn this van back around and go home? HELEN: Right when I first got here. When I first got here. It`s
really tough to just, every night, I told myself, I can do this, I can do this. I just put my pioneer pants on and got right at it.
LING: At an age when most people are considering slowing down, Helen works harder than she ever has, as a truck driver, delivering fuel to job sites across the oil patch.
HELEN: Get ready.
LING: So this is the time you start?
Helen clocks in at 7:00 p.m. On a good day, she`ll finish up at 7:00 in the morning. She works year round with one week off per month when she usually visits her family.
HELEN: Everybody`s up here to work, get the maximum amount of hours, so when we go home for a week at a time, we can really unwind.
LING: When you`re driving these roads all night long, what are you thinking about?
HELEN: My kids, my family and everything. But I love rocking out to the music.
LING: It`s so dark out here. I can`t believe you just do this alone all night long.
HELEN: There have been times where I have said to myself, I`ll just yell out in the cab. Maybe I`m not as tough as I think I am!
LING: Are there a lot of times when guys get surprised to see that a woman is driving this truck?
HELEN: They`ll take a double-take. So what`s a woman doing out here in the oil fields? I like to say, I got the same story as everybody else.
LING: Driving is only one part of Helen`s job. And it`s not the most physical. At each stop on her route, she has to refuel empty tankers and that means hoisting heavy hoses up icy ladders in darkness and cold. She`s the only woman doing this work for her company and she often outlasts men half her age.
HELEN: I never thought this body could work the hours that these old fields call for.
LING: This work is so physical, and sometimes, depending on how much fuel she has to deliver -- I can`t even talk right now. I`m so sorry. My God, I can`t even move my mouth. Helen does this every night. This past winter, it got down to minus 60. And sometimes you can spend up to an hour on these trucks.
Let me see how heavy that hose is. My God, this is heavy shit! .
While her friends back home are settling into their sunset years, Helen`s pulling in a six-figure salary on-twelve hour shift at a time.
HELEN: Coming to North Dakota is like there`s gold in the California hills. Well, here it`s, well, there`s money in North Dakota to be made. That`s why people are coming here.
LING: From this morning`s Williston Herald, for the third year in a row, Williston, North Dakota is the fastest growing city in the nation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The oil boom has increased activity in once sleepy town`s like Williston.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The town now faces a serious housing crisis.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s a housing shortage which has created sky high rent prices.
LING: North Dakota`s long winters shorten the construction season and developers can`t build fast enough to keep up with the demand. Rent in Williston now rivals New York city. Remember Crystal from the job fair? She found a job, but doesn`t have a place to sleep tonight.
CRYSTAL: Hi, Miss Lisa.
LING: How you doing, girl?
LING: Good to see you.
CRYSTAL: Good to see you.
LING: You have all of your stuff in there?
CRYSTAL: Yes, I do.
LING: Have you had to sleep in your car again?
CRYSTAL: No, I didn`t sleep in my car last night. I stayed with a co-worker. But possibly, maybe tonight.
LING: As a single woman, Crystal is cautious about where she lives. But potential homelessness has forced her to consider something she never imagined, living in a man camp.
Have you ever been to a man camp?
CRYSTAL: No. Seemed like it would just be a place for men. LING: And how do you feel about the idea of possibly living in one?
CRYSTAL: To be honest with you, I don`t feel comfortable. Definitely have my .45 on hand.
CRYSTAL: Yes, really.
Hello. Are you Stephanie?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am.
CRYSTAL: I`m Crystal, nice to meet you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nice to meet you.
LING: Stephanie is one of the managers. And she hopes to sell Crystal on the idea that man camps can also be home for women.
So here, the women live amongst the men.
STEPHANIE, MANAGER: Right.
Right now, to be honest with you, we don`t have a lot of women, but we do have, I think, three other women that are with the company.
CRYSTAL: Do you guys have security?
STEPHANIE: We do. We have cameras throughout the building. Also our general manager is an ex-prison guard if that helps. And so, we`re going this way.
LING: The place is fascinating.
STEPHANIE: Just right down here, the basic room, it`s basic. A desk, a pretty small TV, but it`s cable TV. Most people work so much, by the time they get in here, they`re not going to hang out all day.
LING: Each room is ten by 12 feet and includes almost everything you need.
I`m noticing there`s no bathroom in here.
STEPHANIE: Absolutely. And that is why I`m going to spray on you right here. Let me show you what you got, though.
So, they are rest rooms that are individual. Doors lock. They`re cleaned more than once a day. They provide soaps and stuff in here. So it`s not bad.
Per 49 rooms, we have eight bathrooms. LING: Sharing unisex bathrooms, living amongst a sea of men. This
isn`t what Crystal had in mind when she left her home and 11-year-old son in Florida.
Do you know, Crystal, before you came here, how difficult it was going to be to find housing?
LING: And how expensive it would be?
CRYSTAL: No, I had no idea it was going to be like this.
STEPHANIE: Three hot meals a day.
LING: Without a job that offers free housing, Crystal has had to weighed her options. $85 a night with meals included in a man camp, versus sky high rent in an overpriced apartment.
Helen found her way around this dilemma and out of her van when she landed housing along with her trucking job.
HELEN: They supply the furniture, and even the bedding, the towels. It`s like a palace compared to what I`m used to.
LING: This is the company town house she shares with three other women. One of them is 54-year-old Mary Lou.
LING: You both are at the age when a lot of people think about retirement.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
LING: And here you are doing physical work and braving the elements, and, you know, out here doing what people might consider a man`s job.
MARY LOU, 54-YEAR-OLD: Yes, definitely. And they`re proud that we`re out there, and it lightens their day, and they just get to see men all day, and wow, all of a sudden there`s a girl. And, you know, I`m not even five foot tall. I think that women can perform very well here, even though we`re limited in physical size and strength, and I`m proof of it.
LING: You both have had pretty substantial careers, have owned homes, and here you are living in this town house with a few other women. It kind of feels like college again, doesn`t it?
HELEN: It does. But if we could just hang out together, we`re so busy working.
LING: You`re a single woman now. Are you getting asked out by a lot of younger men?
MARY LOU: Yes. LING: What`s the youngest you`ve gone out with?
MARY LOU: Twenty-five.
HELEN: What! Dang, girl, 25. You`re my idle.
MARY LOU: And he`s 6`5" and 280 pounds, and he`s beautiful. I mean, my God. This couldn`t be a better place to be single in America. We call it man heaven.
LING: Even though increasing numbers of women have been coming over the last few years, it`s still pretty man tactic (ph). This is what most of the restaurants in the region are like. I mean, we have more women at this table than there are in this entire restaurant. I`m not complaining, though. Neither is Amy. She put on lipstick.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to North Dakota.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cheers.
LING: What`s it like to be out in a place with so many men?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s different. You know, everybody trying to puff their chest. There`s a lot of long hours, seven days a week, a lot of times. Not a lot of time off. Then when you do have time off, you`re at a man camp filled with nothing but guys, away from their wives, away from their families. They can`t get away from their co- workers. It changes the whole dynamic.
LING: How do guys release the tension?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, come to the bar and drink. I know for a while I drank way more than I ever did back home, you know. That`s one of the reasons why the women up here, they work in service industries like this, they make way more money than they would anywhere else.
LING: 23-year-old Julie was broke when she moved here in Oregon just over a year ago. Now she`s making more money than she`s ever seen.
JULIE, 23-YEARS-OLD: There`s nights where I`ve left here with over a thousand dollars in tips. It`s crazy. It is absolutely, absolutely crazy. There`s no reason that I should be making that much money serving food.
LING: What`s it like to work amongst such a high concentration of men?
JULIE: At first, it was a little bit overwhelming. Every night I was getting two, three, you know, numbers. I have a shoe box full of numbers. It`s really flattering. You`re like, thank you, that`s very nice of you. But then after a while, you start to realize it has nothing to do with your looks, your personality, nothing. They`re just like, a single girl within a 500-mile radius, I`m going to ask her out. It`s like, why? Why do you want to go out with me? You don`t even know me. You haven`t seen a girl in six months, and you`re living in a man camp, working with a bunch of smelly guys. I understand why, but at the same time, I`m not interested.
LING: The overwhelming number of propositions that Julie gets night after night reveals the oil patch`s deep need for female companionship. A need another industry is rushing to fill. One that`s starting to alarm the citizens of Williston.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My friend and I were walking downtown, and a truck pulls up and just starts yelling, how much? How much for a night?
LING (voice-over): I`ve been invited to sit in on a community meeting. Oil has brought many changes to Williston, not all of them welcome.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I seen a girl and she looked really young. And she was running across the street. I thought, that`s odd, because she`s a very young girl. I thought to myself, should I stop and see if she needs help?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At first, I didn`t know what I was looking at. It was creepy, a much older man bringing a much younger female and wanting birth control.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are so not like that in this town. This is all so new to us.
LING: Wendy has heard stories like these before. And that`s why she`s here.
WENDY: The average time a victim will go back to their abuser or trafficker is seven times before they engage in services and help.
LING: Unlike other women I`ve met, Wendy hasn`t moved to North Dakota to chase money. She came because this boom has a dark side.
WENDY: I started hearing reports girls as young as 14 were being propositioned to come and work over in the oil fields.
I was only planning on coming out about two weeks to do some investigative work. Is there sex trafficking going on here? This is where I`ve been for six months, and I`m not going anywhere.
LING: So do you spend a lot of time in cars out here?
WENDY: I do. I try to be out in the community as much as I can to just be eyes and ears.
LING: The sex trade in Williston is on the rise, and local law enforcement can`t keep up. To fill the void, Wendy started one of North Dakota`s few resources for girls caught in the trade. WENDY: So we`re going into the heart of downtown.
T LING: his is where a lot of the bars are?
WENDY: A lot of bars.
LING: She`s showing me some of the local establishments where she`s found women who need her help.
WENDY: I`ve seen girls working in there.
LING: How bad do you think it is here? The trafficking?
WENDY: I describe it as an infestation. The business behind the prostitution and traffic trafficking increases because lots of men and lots of money in one area. Well, that`s what Williston is every single day.
LING: Lots of men away from their families, away from their wives and girlfriends.
WENDY: Yes. And I would almost guarantee there are men out here who have purchased sex who never thought they would.
LING: How prepared do you think this region was for the scourge of sex trafficking?
WENDY: Not prepared at all.
LING: Wendy moved to North Dakota on her own, and she coordinates with government agencies like the FBI. Her work is unpaid. A local church has provided her with housing and a free office.
WENDY: In the whole entire state of North Dakota, I am the only one, so far, that is providing direct services to victims of sex trafficking.
LING: In North Dakota, it`s winter half the year. Instead of walking a strip, working girls have found another way to advertise their services. This is a classified Web site that pedals everything from used cars to apartment rentals.
WENDY: This is where the girls post up.
LING: Buried deep in the site are ads designed to entice lonely men.
WENDY: New, new, new Asian goddess. Look at this. She looks very, very young.
LING: She does.
WENDY: They`re clearly in a hotel.
LING: All of these girls look like they are doing this on their own, number one, but that they want it.
WENDY: They enjoy it.
LING: What do people need to know about the things that they`re looking at on these pages?
WENDY: They`re told to take selfies. They`re told to look happy. They`re told to look desirable. But the amount of clientele that they have to handle in a night, you know, I mean, it`s not unheard of to have to service 30 men in a night. Nobody enjoys that. It`s inhumane to think that these girls are having to endure some unimaginable things.
LING: Wendy understands these girls because she was once one of them. She was just 13 years old when she was sold into the sex trade by someone she thought was her friend. She was trafficked across the country and didn`t escape a life of prostitution and stripping until she was in her 30s.
You spent a long time in the life. How did you get out?
WENDY: I had just had enough. And, I was done. But I didn`t know. I was really at a point where it was like, I`m just going to be a whore, or slut or stripper for the rest of my life. And I was in a club one night in southern California and I got down in mid song, got down off the stage, grabbed my stuff out of the dressing room, got in my car and drove away.
LING: That was it?
WENDY: That was it.
LING: When you look at all these girls, do you see yourself in them?
WENDY: I know the pain. I know the loneliness. I`m sickened by it. But I also know that if we can get to those girls, there`s hope for them.
LING: If she can locate them.
While they`re easy to see online, girls who work for a shadow trade are hard to find.
WENDY: In that pocket.
LING: To really understand how sex is being sold in Williston, Wendy regularly goes to bars and hotels known as prostitution hot spots.
Why are you frequenting all of these places so often?
WENDY: I want to get to know their faces. I want to get to know how the game is played here. The only way I can do that is by being out where they`re at.
LING: There are a lot of girls who have been trafficked from different parts of the country. So we`re wearing a hidden camera with the hope that we can see some of these girls. A lot of them, in all likelihood are under pimp control and would be very difficult to get them to talk freely. So we`re hoping to catch the atmosphere and see what happens.
WENDY: I`m going to take you to some local bars and hotels where I`ve seen activity.
LING: This is a different kind of ride-along. Unlike law enforcement, Wendy is not trying to bust these girls.
Turn off the lights.
She`s trying to help them. The activity is subtle and elusive. But each place provides clues to how the sex trade works here. At the hotel, it`s the women going in and out in the middle of the night.
Lots of women out at 1:46 in the morning. And the line of taxis waiting to ferry them. At the bar, it`s the scantily-clad woman by herself, whispering to a much older man. There definitely is an underbelly here, born to service all of the men here. It`s happening. I mean, I saw for my own eyes, sex trafficking happening here in Williston and in this region.
After two nights of watching activity from afar, Wendy gets a call from a woman who needs her help, and she`s agreed to talk to us.
WENDY: We`ll have you sit here, and I`m just going to sit here. And they`re going to take a couple more minutes.
LING: When we learn that the woman is only 19 years old, we decided to disguise her identity for her own safety.
Tell me when we`re good. Good, tom?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
LING: Why did you come to Williston?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I came for a boy, because I was in love. Well, I thought I was in love.
LING: But after the couple arrived to North Dakota, their relationship took a violent turn. When the stress of an oil rig job became too much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As time went on, he would be working more and more hours, and, you know, with the wind chill and the freezing cold, it was like a lot of stress on him, and he -- I guess he started getting high. It progressively got worse. Going from pills to, you know, meth. He started beating on me. I woke up in the morning and I couldn`t recognize my face. And that`s when I knew I had to go. I was homeless and I had no money. I was talking to someone that I thought would help me. And she led me the wrong direction.
LING: What did she say to you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She told me how to make quick, easy money. She would tell me, I`m a guardian. She would take pictures for the Web site, show me how to answer the phone calls. She would get me a hotel room and show me how to act when the men entered the room.
LING: How soon before you started getting calls?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ten minutes. Not even. And my first phone call was a pimp. He`s like, I`m not looking to spend time with you, honey. He`s like, I`m looking to have you work for me.
LING: And so you would basically just stay in the hotel room and guys would come up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, they`d call me. There would be some older guys. There would be some younger guys. A couple of them would mention their wives. I had this one man that just wanted to cuddle and watch TV. He gave me 150 bucks to do that for half an hour.
LING: Can you tell us what the first time was like?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t remember. I`ll be honest with you, I got high.
LING: Did you feel like you had to get high in order to do it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, definitely. I was high the entire time. You know, I feel pretty naive. I feel like someone older maybe wouldn`t let this happen. Wouldn`t have let their life get that out of control. I`m 19 years old. Like, you know, just out of high school, and like one year later, this is where I am right now. I never, ever thought in my whole life I`d be one of those girls.
LING: Stories like these are becoming more and more common place. Drug use and domestic violence are on the rise here. And law enforcement is overwhelmed. It`s easy to see how vulnerable young women can quickly fall into desperate circumstances.
How you doing now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m OK. Still trying to get to my feet. I mean, starting a new job this week, actually. I`m trying to work it out. But it`s hard. Williston is a tough town.
LING: Escaping the life is never easy. But Wendy has already shepherded several women to safety, either back home, or to a secure shelter.
WENDY: You don`t have to get to that point of being desperate. And if you feel tempted to get on the phone and answer calls because you might need cash, call me and talk to me about it. Let`s just talk it through. I`ll remind you of how you felt and what you went through when you decided to stop. Because sometimes it`s really easy to forget and you fall back to it.
You know, there are pimps around here in the community, looking for vulnerable girls. And I just -- some of them don`t ask, can I be your daddy? You know, so, I just want you to be really safe and make good choices. Choices that you deserve.
WENDY: We need people to recognize that human trafficking is going on here in North Dakota.
LING (voice-over): While Wendy is working to rescue women trapped in the life, she knows that to make a real impact here, she also has to enlist men in her fight. These men and women work on the front line of the oil patch.
WENDY: It`s the men that are working alongside, the men that are part of the demand, that are going to hold them accountable.
One of the things I want to open your minds to is to recognize signs and symptoms of sex trafficking, so that you guys can be aware and hold power to help.
LING: You all are management. Is this the first time that you`ve heard about this happening? Do you know that it`s happening.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kind of get -- you hear it, but you don`t really get -- but now, they can see actual real-world stories and real accounts to match up with it. Now they have to believe it.
WENDY: I know that you guys have, like, connections and can reach a lot of people.
LING: Wendy has made this commitment and each day her army of concerned citizens is growing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The community is ready to take up a stand and say, we`ve had enough.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, exactly.
LING: After touring her first man camp, Crystal is opening up to the idea of living here.
CRYSTAL: Well, I actually got a whole new closet of man camps.
CRYSTAL: I really think it will work if I came out here.
LING: You were apprehensive at first.
CRYSTAL: Yes, just walking up here, it was creepy at first. But actually, it`s a nice place.
LING: Are you OK with not having a bathroom in your room?
CRYSTAL: No, I`m not OK with that, but I can adjust. I mean, this could be home.
JULIE: What do you want your son to know about what you`re doing here?
CRYSTAL: I`m definitely trying to make a better life for us. I mean, I`m not going to be on welfare. I`m actually setting an example, you know. So he know that his mom is out working hard, busting her butt. I mean, I advise anyone to come out here if they want to make some money. I feel like it`s a pot of gold.
LING: Just about everyone I`ve met has had to give up something to get gold. For many of these women, it`s precious time away from their families.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fire valves are open.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire valves, check.
LING: But a job in North Dakota has given them something they couldn`t find anywhere else. For Helen, it`s a chance to earn back the life she lost, one shift at a time.
HELEN: OK, we`ve got clear in here.
Once I knew I was coming to North Dakota, I was saying, this is it. This is the answer to my prayers.
OK. Got it.
I developed an attitude that I was going to pioneer. It doesn`t matter what. It was just, which truck.
LING: This is a place of opportunity. This is a place of second chances. This is a place where people can strike fortunes. It`s not pretty. The hours are long. But right now, the American dream is literally playing itself out here in the fields of North Dakota.
In many ways, North Dakota is forging a way forward for our country, but it`s not that simple. Dreams are chased here. Some are won and some are loss. It is an old story in a new frontier.