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Safe Harbors Initiative

For helping Minnesota victims of sex trafficking.

About the Safe Harbors Initiative

The sexual exploitation of children in the United States and in Minnesota is a problem of growing urgency. The average age of a child lured into sexual exploitation is between 11 and 14 years. 

Until recently, Minnesota law defined children found to be “engaging in prostitution” as simultaneously victims of sex trafficking and delinquents. On July 20, 2011, Minnesota passed into law a public safety bill that includes protections for commercially sexually exploited children and clarifies that sexually exploited children are crime victims, not criminals. Originally a stand-alone bill, the Safe Harbors law was wrapped into the public safety bill and was held up during the state's budget crisis. 

With the passage of this law, Minnesota continues to prove it is a leader in protecting sexually exploited children. The new law:

  • Excludes sexually exploited children under 16 from the definition of delinquent child;
  • Includes the definition of sexually exploited youth in Minnesota’s child protection code;
  • Creates a mandatory first-time diversion for any 16 or 17 year old who has been exploited in prostitution (where the child meets the criteria);
  • Allows prosecutors to continue diversion or to proceed with CHIPS petitions for children coming through the system an additional time;
  • Increases penalties against offender “johns.” Previously $250, the new penalty is a minimum of $500 and maximum of $750. 40% of fees will go to an account to serve child victims; and
  • Directs the commissioner of public safety to work with stakeholders to create a victim-centered response to sexually exploited youth.

The Advocates was proud to lead a coalition of partners to pass the law, including ECPAT-USA, The Family Partnership, Breaking Free, Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, the Statewide Human Trafficking Task Force, The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, and the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office. Many in the law enforcement community provided critical input. The legislation was authored by Representatives Steve Smith, Tony Cornish, and Michael Paymar and Senators Sandra Pappas, John Marty, and Ron Latz.

Read the legislation.

Read the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's endorsement of the Safe Harbors bill.