January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, bringing national attention to what is now known as modern day slavery. Human sex trafficking is the second largest type of criminal activity after the drug trade, with an estimated 300,000 children under the age of 18 at-risk nationwide. The FBI has ranked Minnesota number 13 in the U.S. stating “…we have a burgeoning black market industry threatening our youth” citing reasons such as Minnesota’s interstate infrastructure, commercialism, modeling industry, and teen access to social media. However as an advocate I would like to add, Minnesota’s youth homeless crisis, deleterious foster care system, lack of education/outreach funding, skyrocketing strip club industry, naive parenting and domestic violence. According to Mpls Police Sgt. Grant Synder, “it’s a problem in every community.”
Minnesota Law defines Sex Trafficking as: The “receiving, recruiting, enticing, harboring, providing, or obtaining by any means an individual to aid in the prostitution of the individual” or “receiving profit or anything of value, knowing or having reason to know it is derived from [sex trafficking].” Minn. Stat. § 609.321, subd. 7a. According to ccasa.org sometimes sexual exploitation is “familial” or in the form of intimate partner violence. Ten percent of hotline calls are cases of family members and in 60-70 percent of the cases the victim knows the trafficker. According to MNDOT it’s a $150 billion industry and as recent as 2015 Minnesota had the third highest number of cases.
The Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force, a collaboration of law enforcement, advocates, service providers, 40 anti-trafficking organizations, Hennepin, Ramsey and other counties, businesses, cities and victim survivors are working hard to combat what has been identified as the “largest human trafficking event in the U.S.” The dark underbelly of the Super Bowl, as stated by the Huffington Post, the influx of fans fosters the optimal breeding ground for pimps looking to boost their profits. According to the Star Tribune, Minnesota law enforcement is expecting a jump in solicited sex during the Super Bowl and is gearing up to crack down on trafficking before, during and after the big event.
Advocates at SOURCE, an urban outreach and anti-trafficking program, have put extra measures in place to train additional staff just for the Super Bowl. SOURCE works with adults providing after-care transitional housing in Minneapolis. Maria Eddy, the Anti-Trafficking Director of SOURCE, gives insight into what she sees as barriers to ending human sex trafficking: “The world’s largest brothel is the Internet.” “On average it takes a women seven times to leave the life.” “Sometimes it’s hard for women to relate to the word trafficked.” And “Some women have a hard time admitting in domestic violence shelters that they’ve been forced into or involved in prostitution and may not receive the help they need.” [sourcemn.org /612-822-5200]
Advocates working at domestic violence programs often encounter victims of human trafficking so it is critical that advocates know how to identify and help trafficking victims. Traffickers subject their victims to multiple victimizations: various forms of abuse, including sexual exploitation, forced labor, domestic servitude, death threats, beatings, isolation, entrapment, and/or starvation, depriving them of their most basic needs. [nccdv.org]
If you know or suspect someone is being trafficked call 911 immediately with their whereabouts. For 24/7, confidential, bilingual support you can contact the Human Trafficking Hotline at TraffickingResourceCenter.org or 1-888-373-7888.
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This article was written by Niema Broadnax