Two women in their early twenties wait at a gate in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport—one of them clearly intoxicated. She becomes disruptive, and airport police are called to the scene. After attempts to calm her, they arrest her for disorderly conduct.
Her friend, who has already missed her departing flight, has nowhere to go. Something about the situation is off, observes detective Mari Askerooth of the Airport Police Department.
There are close to officers, and the dogs trained to sniff out cocaine and detect explosives roam the offices. The women had already booked return flights several days out, so they were stranded. One of them was being trafficked by a third party, Askerooth says. She wanted to get out of the business.
Sex trafficking is a subset of human trafficking, any crime where someone profits from the exploitation or forced labor of another. Traffickers use coercion, threats, isolation, rape, and physical violence to ensnare victims and keep them silent. Mall of America teamed up with Twin Cities nonprofit The Link for mandatory, in-person anti-trafficking training for more than 1, mall employees.
A sting led to the arrest of 94 suspects after Bureau of Criminal Apprehension special agents posed as potential victims online. Suspects made arrangements to meet for illegal sexual encounters and were arrested upon arrival—including at least 36 for soliciting a minor, according to the Department of Public Safety. In all, 28 potential victims, ageswere recovered in the sting. Most of the arrests were set up through online-classifieds service Back. In at least 82 percent of juvenile trafficking cases and 92 percent of adult cases in Hennepin and Ramsey Counties from January to Augustsex buyers entered the market through Back.
Over the years, Craigslist. About 26, men across the state buy sex annually, according to St. Paul-based Lutheran Social Service, whose anti-trafficking efforts reach into rural Minnesota across 87 counties. She describes reports of youth sexually assaulted at remote casino hotel parties, where they might be lured by the promise of free booze or drugs.
In rural areas like northeastern Minnesota, the Native population is more vulnerable to sexual exploitation—the case for any affected by systems of oppression and historical trauma, LaFrinier-Ritchie says. And who is paying for illegal sex? In the massive Super Bowl sting, most suspects had no criminal record beyond minor traffic offenses. Traffickers are mostly male—but not always. This was the case one evening in March Victim A refused to comply and was able to avoid this encounter.
But plans had already been set in motion. Days before, Parker had placed an ad on Back. Within 48 hours of posting, Parker drove Victim A to a suburban apartment, where she ordered her teammate to give oral sex to an adult male.
Within the week, an FBI special agent was on the case. What motivated a senior honor-roll student and cheerleader to lead an attempted prostitution ring, and to coerce and traffick a younger classmate? In his sentencing opinion, Hennepin County District Court Judge William Koch said this case was made more tragic by the fact that it was hardly unique.
Six other defendants in the prior 14 months had been sentenced by Hennepin County judges on prostitution-related charges. The average age of the victims was Parker pled guilty in Hennepin County District Court to sex trafficking a minor as well as two other felony charges.
Convicted of all three, she was sentenced to 36 months in prison. This prevailing cultural attitude has made it difficult to eradicate sex trafficking. Prosecution of sex trafficking has grown statewide since the mids, but convictions remain uneven, according to a report by the Minnesota Office of Justice Programs. Minnesota prosecutors made charges of soliciting inbut these led to only 32 convictions.
Prosecuting sex traffickers themselves has been marginally more successful: That same year saw 63 successful convictions for 72 charges of sex trafficking. This improved from the year before, when only 31 of 81 sex trafficking cases won convictions. InSweden passed landmark anti-trafficking legislation in the form of the Nordic Model. Prostitution was identified as an inherent human rights abuse, and prostituted individuals were decriminalized while stricter punishment was leveraged against sex buyers and traffickers.
The top risk factor for human trafficking last year was recent migration or relocation, according to the Polaris Project, a Washington, D. Inthe protected age window was extended to More than 1, received housing and assistance between and But where does this leave adult trafficking victims? Askerooth recalls coming across a trafficked woman waiting in an airport terminal for three days after a job at a Twin Cities massage parlor fell through. The victim was scared to accept help from law enforcement officers.
Today, by operating on a partial decriminalization model like the Nordic Model, Minnesota law has deviated from the predominant U. Prior to this legal shift, victims were often charged as perpetrators.
Without human rights-oriented trafficking laws, the stranded woman at the airport might have been charged with solicitation and held in custody, creating a perilous situation for her young son when she failed to return to her traffickers. Founder of the Oregon-based anti-human trafficking nonprofit In Our Backyard, Belles carries a booklet full of photos and descriptions of missing children who may today be trafficked. Throughout the week, Belles and volunteers distribute booklets to convenience stores, and to taxi and Uber drivers. One in three missing children will be lured into trafficking, Belles estimates.
Today, the Twin Cities ranks 14th among major U. Between andcases of child solicitation and coercing into pornography saw ificant increases, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety found. Within a week of the Super Bowl, 15 children from the booklet were recovered. Belles notes that survivors can help law enforcement and social services understand the patterns of trafficking.
If a cashier recognizes the distressing, tell-tale s of trafficking, a single phone call to a hotline or to local law enforcement could start the chain reaction that saves a victim. But that requires awareness, knowledge, and action, Belles says. Call the national human trafficking hotline.
This nonprofit helps women escape sexual exploitation through advocacy, services, housing, and education. Works to end domestic violence in the Latino community.
Locations in Bloomington, Minneapolis, and Brooklyn Center offer legal advocacy and support for victims of abuse and trafficking. Crisis Hotline: ; cornerstonemn. Sponsored by Duluth-based Men As Peacemakers, this outreach campaign promotes a no-tolerance policy to sexual trafficking and violence.
Duluth-based nonprofit offers services for homeless and street youth under Youth Safeline: ; lifehouseduluth.
This Twin Cities youth- and family-focused nonprofit provides anti-trafficking training for community groups and service providers. Leadership and resources for sexual assault programs and allies to prevent sexual violence. Counseling and support services for sexually exploited youth. Governmental and non-governmental agencies working on a statewide human trafficking response. Sexual assault advocacy services for all ages, including a program for youth ages 24 and under who have experienced sexual exploitation.
Rochester faith-based organization provides resources for child victims of sex trafficking. Crisis services and counseling to survivors of sexual exploitation and trafficking. A Twin Cities nonprofit committed to making the justice system more responsive to crimes against women and children. in. Log into your .
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