Human trafficking hits home

Emma Zenzen, Journalist

It’s a 32 billion dollar a year industry, it affects 2.5 million victims, and it is everywhere including in YOUR town and YOUR neighborhood even if you believe it or not. Minnesota girls are not safe from the dangers of sex trafficking, and it is on the rise.

Girls in Minnesota are being forced into prostitution right now, more than ever. Awareness needs to be spread in order to combat the factors contributing to human trafficking.

Sex trafficking, sometimes known as modern day slavery, happens in all locations and areas of the United States and the world. The legal definition for sex trafficking from Merriam-Webster is the illegal business of recruiting, harboring, transporting, obtaining, or providing a person and especially a minor for the purpose of sex.

Many people are unclear of where the line between prostitution and sex trafficking is, which are two things that shouldn’t be treated the same. Prostitution is consensual, the worker receives 100% of the payment, works for oneself, is over the age of 18, and is not being forced into acts. The opposite is true for victims involved in sex trafficking. Trafficked victims are controlled by a trafficker or pimp, is involved in forced sexual acts, receives little to no money, and are of any age. The surface of each work resembles each other but both are completely different things.

It’s with that girl you went to elementary school with. It’s with your friend in your office, it’s his daughter. It touches everybody but it’s a very easy crime to turn your back on because it’s really hard to understand.

— Allison Jennings, Deputy D.A. from movie Tricked

While consistent statistics are hard to find because of the invisibility of sex trafficking issues, many of the facts are close to accurate and are disturbing either way. The Twin Cities is ranked the 13th city with high rates of child prostitution and St.Cloud is known as a training ground for new girls. In 2010, one study released statistics that said on any weekend in Minnesota, 45 girls under the age 18 are sold for sex through internet or on escort services. Another study in 2010 said that at least 213 girls are sold an average of five times a day for sex through the internet. This number does not involve street, hotel, or gang activity in the statistic which are significant factors. The national average age for girls first victimized by prostitution is 12-14, with the average age of 13 in North Minneapolis. Over 50% of girls who are victims of sex trafficking are runaways living on the street. If they are not runaways they can be recruited by agreements between parents and recruiters, parent pressure, or forced abduction. Horrific.

While these facts are alarming, there is not much you can do by strictly knowing the facts besides having awareness for the issue. Spreading awareness for the growing problem is needed to boost the efforts of identifying people trapped in the industry. Training is available for individuals, businesses, educators, and law enforcement who want to become more aware of the problem. Hosting events that discuss human trafficking issues and volunteering in your community for anti-trafficking events are great ways to become more informed and present in your area. Becoming familiar with the signs of trafficked victims can also be the chance to rescue a person from sex trafficking. Always follow the rule of “see something-say something” when noticing something suspicious. Your call to law enforcement or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center could save someone’s life.

You can help the fight against sex trafficking by joining the Students Against Trafficking(StAT) club here at Sartell High School. Monthly meetings are held to discuss local news about trafficking incidents and ways to spread awareness to the school and community. Your voice is needed to help the thousands of women that are trafficked annually in the United States. Also, look forward to our guest speaker on January 25th in Ramp Up to learn more about sex trafficking and sexual assault.