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Who are the Victims?
Sex trafficking takes many forms and occurs throughout Minnesota. While there is no typical victim, traffickers generally prey on vulnerable persons or those that have otherwise been marginalized by society. Anyone can be trafficked, but victims are primarily women and girls. Many risk factors overlap or may stem from larger societal systemic problems, including gender discrimination, violence against women, racism, and restrictive U.S. immigration policies. A common risk factor, either alone or in combination with others, is poverty.[1] Generally speaking, traffickers prey on individuals that have been marginalized by society or that are vulnerable persons. Additional risk factors include, but are not limited to; age, race, history of physical or sexual abuse, history of prostitution in the family, lack of immigration status, sexual orientation, language barriers, lack of support systems, or being a homeless or runaway youth.[2] Research shows that homeless or runaway youth are approached for sex within 48 hours of being on the street.[3]
One common misunderstanding we all need to face in Minnesota, regardless of the victim, is the idea that being prostituted is a choice or that the victim is somehow culpable for having been trafficked.[4]
Studies show that the average age of a girl’s entry into prostitution/sex trafficking is 12 to 14 years old.[5] For both minor and adult victims, research shows that regardless of how a person came to be in the situation of being prostituted, the majority do not want to continue to be bought and sold for sex.[6] Furthermore, the health implications for trafficking victims are severe; women being prostituted are almost 18 times more likely to be murdered than women of similar age and race[7] and it is estimated the average life expectancy once a juvenile starts being prostituted is 7 years.[8]  No one can consent to being trafficked. Sex trafficking is a grave human rights violation that has devastating consequences for its victims.

[1] The Advocates for Human Rights,Sex Trafficking in Minnesota: Prosecutor Training,  "Dynamics of Sex Trafficking", 21.
[2] The Advocates for Human Rights, Sex Trafficking in Minnesota: Prosecutor Training,  "Dynamics of sex Trafficking", 21.
[3] The State of Minnesota-Office of the Attorney General. The Hofstede Committee Report: Juvenile Prostitution in Minnesota. 1999. http://www.heart-intl.net/HEART/080105/JuvenileProstitutionMinn.pdf (last visited April 1, 2011)
[4] The Advocates for Human Rights, Sex Trafficking in Minnesota: Prosecutor Training,  "Dynamics of Sex Trafficking", 13.
[5] 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.
[6] The Advocates for Human Rights, Sex Trafficking in Minnesota: Prosecutor Training, 13.
[7] Mortality in a Long-term Open Cohort of Prostitute Women, Potterat et al, American Journal of Epidemiology, November 2003, http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/159/8/778.full
[8] Bay Fang, “Young Lives for Sale.” U.S. News & World Report. Vol. 139, No. 15. 24 October 2005, http://www.usnews.com/usnews/news/articles/051024/24sextraffickers.htm