Sex trafficking big issue
Sexual exploitation is not a common phrase in Faribault County, but according to statistics from the Advocates for Human Rights and Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force, sexual exploitation and human trafficking are an issue in Minnesota.
In 2015, Minnesota had the third-highest number of human trafficking cases in the United States, and the FBI identified the Twin Cities as one of 13 U.S. cities with a particularly high incidence rate of child prostitution.
But how does that affect Faribault County’s small, rural area? Quite a bit.
Victim/Witness Coordinator for Faribault County, Deb Wiederhoft says there have been a few cases of human trafficking, but those have happened on Interstate 90, which immediately makes those cases federal cases, and out of the county’s hands.
In talking with the Committee Against Domestic Abuse (CADA) program manager, Porter Arch, there are more people in domestic slavery now than any other time in history.
“That includes sex workers, that includes domestic slavery, that includes sexual exploitation of young adults, the whole gambit,” says Arch. “It is a constant concern. Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery and is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that denies freedom to 20.9 million people around the world.”
No matter where a person lives, chances are it is happening nearby, says Arch. And the deeper concern is that there is no definitive identification of a perpetrator who uses human trafficking to their advantage.
“There is no stereotype for the recruiters of human trafficking,” Arch shares.?”What we see on television, you know like pimps and stuff? They don’t necessarily fit the stereotype that has been portrayed. Recruiters can be older women, it can be another teenager in your son or daughter’s class, it can be a beloved member of the community. Human traffic recruiters come in all sizes, shapes, colors and identities.”
Arch also shares that the largest group of recruiters can be found online. And, Arch says, a lot of folks who are recruited into trafficking are young, between 13 and 14 years of age.
“There are four main recruitment tactics: abduction and coercion are the least common, surprisingly,” says Arch. “Those types of recruitment tactics fall under the ‘stranger danger’ category. If you are doing that type of training with your children, that’s a step in the right direction, but what’s much more common and much more insidious is what we call ‘befriending and boyfriending.'”
Arch says this type of recruitment for sex trafficking looks like a friend or a boyfriend who are extremely good at manipulating someone into isolation, submission and other tactics of dependence.
“A lot of that communication in smaller towns between a recruiter and recruitee is online; things like Facebook, social apps, and YouTube,” Arch explains. “Lots of students have YouTube channels now, whether they’re doing vlogging or like a daily online journal type thing, or even the ever-popular slime making videos. Once recruiters see their presence, they will jump into the comments section and start talking to them from there.”
Arch says recruiters look for young people who have the most vulnerability, which would include socioeconomic instability students who come from homes where they may not receive the love and attention they need, get it from the recruiters. LGBTQ teens in rural areas are also at higher risk.
“Usually LGBTQ youths in rural areas end up having to go online to find a community where they identify with similar people,” Arch says. “It’s important that these young adults and teenagers have access to people in their community they can talk to and feel safe around.”
According to The Advocates for Human Rights, victims of trafficking have multiple risk factors including poverty or lack of resources, young age, racial or ethnic marginalization, personal histories of abuse or exploitation, chemical dependency, lack of support systems or unstable family environments, and the like. Victims also may be fleeing a crisis situation, may lack immigration status or have a different cultural background, or are facing homelessness or status as a runaway.
Arch also says that about 30 percent of youths in Minnesota who are subject to sex trafficking are male. Not just females are targeted.
“The biggest thing that I think we need to be aware of here is that selling the actual purchasing and trading of humans is made online,” Arch says. “And the biggest take away is that studies have shown that 20 percent of the male population purchases sex. That means that 80 percent of that population sets the tone for everyone else. We have to stand up and show these behaviors, these stereotypes, these notions are completely unacceptable. Human trafficking, sex trafficking, and prostitution is not okay and we need to stand up to it.”
Human trafficking occurs in cities and communities of all sizes and in a variety of industries and places. One of the most popular locations for human and sex trafficking is the Super Bowl.
In order for families and communities to stand up against the issues of sex trafficking and human trafficking, or trafficking for purposes of labor, it is important to know your role as a citizen.
“The best thing anyone can do to help is to know the issues, know your resources in the area, like CADA, the police department, and sheriff’s department, and inform any of those resources that have proper training in these situations when something is wrong,” says Arch. “The most common thing to look out for is a young person traveling with an older male, or a younger person who is not necessarily with family. Most people who are being trafficked don’t necessarily realize they are victims, especially in the case of having a boyfriend or girlfriend who manipulates them. There’s not necessarily outright signs that someone is being recruited, but they have very similar dynamics of an abusive relationship.”
Not every rest area attack scenario is the result of sex trafficking; not every domestic violence situation turns into prostitution, but it can happen. And, it is important for citizens to know who is here to help and how to help someone in need.
Sexual exploitation does not have a definitive appearance, it takes many shapes and many forms.
For more information on sex trafficking and human trafficking, check out the National Human Trafficking Resource Center and Polaris Project at polarisproject.org, the Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force at mnhttf.org, and the Advocates for Human Rights at theadvocatesforhumanrights.org.