Sex Trafficking is a form of Sexual Violence
Headlines in the recent past have pointed to sex trafficking in rural Minnesota. This is happening in our communities and small towns. This is the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world. According to the International Labour Organization, there are 47.7 million slaves in the world (labor and sex) today. More today than when President Lincoln was alive.
Sex trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery, a crime that exploits people for profit and deprives them of their basic human rights. Minnesota 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” and “Sexual exploitation includes all youth who have engaged, agreed to engage, or were forced into sexual conduct in return for…” something of value. The Minnesota law recognizes that a person can never consent to being sexually exploited.
While anyone can be a victim of sex trafficking, most are women and girls. The average age entering into prostitution is 12 to 14 years old. Safe Harbor is an organization that supports those who are experiencing or have experienced domestic and/or sexual violence. In the Safe Harbor First Year Evaluation Report, 65% of youth in Greater MN were enrolled in school at the time of exploitation and 60% lived with their parents. Sex trafficking can be any kind of commercial sexual exploitation, including prostitution, pornography, stripping, military prostitution (servicing military personnel), sex tourism (traveling to engage in prostitution) and survival sex (trading sex for food and shelter).
Victims are recruited or groomed into the sex trafficking business by sex traffickers or pimps. Parents can watch for red flags that their child may be getting involved with a pimp. Watch for your daughter to have a new “older” boyfriend. This boyfriend may be giving her expensive gifts such as a cell phone, a chance to travel or to become a model; this boyfriend could actually be a pimp. The gifts will be used to buy her loyalty and trust. Your daughter may become very secretive, leaving the house without telling you where she is going or where she has been. The pimp wants to convince her that her parents cannot be trusted. She may feel that he understands her better than her own parents. You may notice that she is constantly escorted, monitored or called frequently; all ways for him to check up on her.
If a child has run away from home, or is homeless, a pimp may offer food and shelter. Unfortunately once the pimp has gained her trust and loyalty, the tables turn. A pimp may use violence including rape or drugs and alcohol to force your child into the sex trade. She will learn quickly that he will use these same forms of abuse if she doesn’t do what he tells her to, and sometimes even if she does. It is not unusual for a victim of sex trafficking to be forced to have sex ten or more times per day, with the money paid for her services, going to the pimp. The average life expectancy after entering prostitution is 7 years.
Prostitution is never the victim’s fault, it may only appear to look as though she is willing due to psychological fright. Victims often do not identify as victims. They feel that everything has been their choice. They choose to sleep with strangers for money because their boyfriend (the pimp) wanted them to and they want to please him.
The victim will feel that there is no way out. They may have lost their ability to see their situation clearly, and may feel they deserve what is happening or that their family would not want them back.
If you know or think your child may be a victim of sex trafficking there is help. Brie Sweeney is the Safe Harbor Regional Navigator in the West Central Region of MN. Her contact information is 320-979-9481 or [email protected]. Brie can offer support and guidance for victims of sex trafficking. You can also contact Someplace Safe: Jeanine Thompson [email protected] for support and guidance. Jeannie covers Wilkin, Ottertail, Wadena, Traverse, Grant, Douglas, Big stone, Pope, and Stevens counties.