Free at Last was an eye-opening half day on Human Trafficking in Minnesota. Most startling was the FBI statistic ranking Minnesota as 13th in trafficking of children. Children from all social classes are at risk. Rich children have as much access to internet as anyone, though families in poverty are at higher risk with parents sometimes selling daughters -- the average age of entry into trafficking for sex is 8 to 11 years old.
A large problem is the stigma of being a victim, a "prostitute." With our values and priorities selling and purchasing sex carries less shame than being sold for sex. Young girls are damaged for life and fear speaking up because of shame. Parents need to learn the signs of abuse and realize "it can happen in our family." Religious families are not exempt: one 10 year old was invited by a 14 year old to a "prayer group" where she was gang raped a block and a half from home. Shame and fear kept the secret. One therapist told me that 80% of her drug addicted clients were sexually abused as children.
Interim St. Cloud Chief of Police, Richard Wilson, discussed the difficulty of prosecuting crimes of trafficking either for sex or labor because of the many agencies involved. Usually perpetrators are working in multiple states and sometimes across national borders. Homeland Security, Drug and Alcohol agencies may also be involved and the investigations are long. It is important for law enforcement personnel to develop trusting relationships with communities and for friends and family members to report any suspicious activitity to intervene on behalf of victims.
Human trafficking is based on economics. A pimp with 5 girls doing 15 $100.00 'tricks' a day can make $7,500.00 a day. They have ways of keeping their girls loyal to them. Minnesota has a higher than average level of income and there are more buyers available here. Our port city of Duluth serves users on incoming ships. There is no stigma on the users. "Boys will be boys!"
How much longer will we take it??? Free At Last was a program sponsored by Hands Across the World in St. Cloud, MN to begin the dialog and to educate. Multiple local organizations partnered to make this possible. I pray it will make a large difference.
Written by Sister Jan Kilian, this blog will give an understanding of what it’s like to be Franciscan. Living out the spirit of Saint Francis, we see all God’s creation as brother and sister. We, Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, are committed to building relationships and community, ministering wherever there is greatest need, promoting justice and healing Mother Earth’s wounds. My writings will give a glimpse of the compassion, spirituality, interconnectedness and goodness of living Franciscan.