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Human Sex Trafficking in Minnesota
Trafficking for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation is occurring at alarming rates in the United States and in Minnesota. It has been found that the average age of a girl’s entry into prostitution/sex trafficking is between 12 and 14 years old,[1] and according to one service provider, between 8,000 and 12,000 people are estimated to be involved in prostitution/sex trafficking in Minnesota every day.[2]  It is very difficult, however, to truly know or grasp the reach of trafficking in Minnesota for several reasons, including, the clandestine nature of the crime; a misunderstanding of the definition of sex trafficking under Minnesota law; lack of reporting; barriers that victims face when seeking help; a general lack of awareness;[3] or a lack of understanding or training by law enforcement and/or service providers on how to recognize a trafficked person, as well as the resistance of a trafficked person to self identify or report[4].
Several individual groups, including The Advocates for Human Rights, along with the members of the statewide Human Trafficking Task Force have been working to combat this human rights violation in Minnesota for a number of years. A comprehensive overview of what constitutes sex trafficking in Minnesota is provided in our report, Sex Trafficking Needs Assessment for the State of Minnesota. The report examines the government response to this issue at the local, state, tribal and federal levels; identifies facilities and services currently available to trafficking victims in Minnesota; assesses their effectiveness; and makes recommendations for coordinating services to better meet the needs of sex trafficking victims statewide. It includes findings and recommendations for change.
It is important to note that when discussing this grave human rights violation in our state, The Advocates uses the legal definition of sex trafficking under Minnesota law. We feel it is critically important to use correct labels and to provide clarity and understanding of what constitutes sex trafficking in Minnesota. Minnesota law is distinctly different from federal law in that it considers individuals who have been prostituted “by any means” as trafficking victims, meaning it is not necessary to show that the victim, at any age, was forced, defrauded, or coerced into trafficking. This distinction makes the Minnesota definition broader than either the federal definition or the UN definition with regard to adult victims[5]. However, Minnesota law is also narrower in that it excludes some victims of commercial sexual exploitation from the definition of sex trafficking, such as those exploited in forced stripping or pornography by limiting the definition of sex trafficking to prostitution, defined as only sexual contact or sexual penetration[6]. While we focus on the legal definition in much of our work addressing sex trafficking in Minnesota, we also utilize a human rights perspective, and therefore acknowledge that some forms of prostitution and other types of sexual exploitation that may not be defined as “sex trafficking” are still violations of women’s human rights and forms of commercial sexual exploitation that must also be addressed in Minnesota.

[1] Action Network to End Sexual Exploitation in Minnesota, “Buying Sex Stops Here.” 2008 citing R.J. Estes, Ph.D., and N. A. Weiner, Ph.D. "Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the U.S. Canada and Mexico,” http://www.sp2.upenn.edu/~restes/CSEC_Files/Exec_Sum_020220.pdf; see also U.S. Department of Education, “Human Trafficking of Children in the United States: A Fact Sheet for Schools.” 2007.
[2] V. Carter, Executive Director, Breaking Free, Press Release March 13, V. Carter estimated 6-8,000 in 2000 as cited in D. Hughes, “Race and Prostitution in the United States”, http://www.uri.edu/artsci/wms/hughes/pubtrfrep.htm. For more information on prostitution see, D. Hughes, “Fact Sheet: Domestic Sex Trafficking and Prostitution in the United States” at same URL.
[3] The Advocates for Human Rights, Sex Trafficking in Minnesota: Prosecutor Training, "What is sex trafficking?", 2.
[4] The Advocates for Human Rights, Sex Trafficking Needs Assessment (Minnesota: 2008), Executive Summary, 4.
[5]Neither the UN Protolcol nor the Federal definition require the element of force fraud or coercion for victims under the age of 18. Visit the sections of this website on laws and definitions, UN Protocol, or TVPA for more information.
[6] Please visit the Laws and definitions section of this website for more information and links to the statute defining sex trafficking and prostitution.