CVRC: Trafficking in our community

Published 9:44 am Monday, May 2, 2016

Crime Victims Resource Center

We’ve been hearing a lot about human sex trafficking in the news lately, but many of us may not know what it means. “Sex trafficking” is the trade of human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation, and, unfortunately, it may very well be happening in our community.

Sex trafficking and prostitution are synonymous, particularly when referring to minors. The average age when girls are first trafficked is 12 to 14 years old, according to the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota. The Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that 100,000 children are exploited each year for prostitution in the United States and the FBI identified the Twin Cities as one of 13 US cities with a high incidence of child prostitution.

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Sex traffickers target our most vulnerable youth – those in homes struggling with poverty or the homeless, those with a history of physical or sexual abuse, or those experiencing chemical dependency who lack a support system sufficient to mitigate these various traumas. The amount of information shared online through social media makes it easy for traffickers to identify and recruit vulnerable youth for the sex trade industry.

This is an issue that can potentially affect everybody in our community. There is a societal financial cost through increased public spending on public health services, law enforcement expenses, and social welfare programs. But, perhaps more importantly, it is also a human rights issue. Minnesota has taken a major step to address the problem of child sex trafficking by enacting the Safe Harbor law which helps young girls and boys who are trafficked to be treated as victims and not as criminals. The Safe Harbor law outlines a statewide response for sexually exploited youth that includes comprehensive services to the youth as well as training and protocol development.

If you work with or care for teenagers there are certain warning signs that might indicate this is their experience. If they suddenly have expensive clothing or electronics with no explainable income, if they become secretive and have frequent short disappearances, if they have different people picking them up or dropping them off at school or at home, something might be amiss. If you would like further information about this topic please give us a call at the Crime Victims Resource Center 507-437-6680.