The University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs will host an event Thursday to combat sex trafficking issues in the Twin Cities.
Minneapolis is one of 13 U.S. cities identified by the FBI for having large concentrations of child prostitution activity.
According to statewide data compiled by the Advocates for Human Rights, 8,000 to 12,000 people per day were involved in prostitution or sex trafficking in 2008.
North Minneapolis is a particular area where sex trafficking is a “substantial issue,” said Rev. Alika Galloway, a co-pastor at Kwanzaa Community Church who will speak at the event.
Although sex trafficking is an issue in Minnesota, the state is considered one of the most proactive when it comes to combating human trafficking,
according to the Polaris Project, which focuses on fighting modern forms of slavery, such as trafficking.
The Kwanzaa Church’s Northside Women’s Space, which Galloway leads, helps women who have been exploited by sex traffickers in north Minneapolis.
Lauren Martin, a research associate at the University, works alongside Galloway. Her research conducted in 2005-06 on sex trafficking in north Minneapolis led to the Northside Women’s Space development.
Martin’s research found certain aspects like sexual abuse, neglect, poverty and running away from home are common among women who are forced into trafficking.
“These kinds of factors lead to vulnerability,” she said.
People who engage in trafficking are adept at taking advantage of women with these vulnerabilities, Martin said.
“They’re skilled at what they do,” she said. “They know how to recognize girls who they can groom and traffic.”
The average age of a girl’s entry into sex trafficking is 12 to 14 years old, according to the Advocates for Human Rights.
For her research, Martin asked women who had traded or sold sex to participate in a survey. About 82 percent of respondents were African-American, and 90 percent were
Apart from the Northside Women’s Space, Martin pointed to the Runaway Intervention Project in Ramsey County as an effective tool to help runaways who’ve been victims of sex trafficking.
The program, which started in 2006, aims to address and identify the needs of young runaway girls, including some who have been the victims of sex trafficking.
Kate Richtman, juvenile division director for the Ramsey County Attorney’s office, said about 75 girls per year go through the intensive services component of the program, which includes a comprehensive medical assessment, individualized case management and weekly therapy groups.
She said the program works hand-in-hand with the St. Paul Police Department.
“What has been the program’s strength is that it’s a collaboration with law enforcement,” she said.
Most of the girls who go through the program end up going back to school, Richtman said.
Programs like the Runaway Intervention Project help build resiliency so the children can have productive lives, she said.
“This trauma will always be part of that individual, but it doesn’t have to define who they are,” Richtman said. “That’s my guiding principle.”
The Understanding and Ending Trafficking event will be held at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday in the Humphrey Forum.