Sex Trafficking: Community advocates awareness and prevention
Community advocates discussed awareness of sex trafficking in Duluth at the “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” screening on Jan. 31. To wrap up Sex Trafficking Awareness Month, the UMD Early Childhood Studies Program and the Women’s Resource and Action Center invited students and staff to engage in the conversation.
Although January has ended, the conversation on sex trafficking doesn’t have to stop. Adele Yorde, Public Relations Director of the Duluth Port Authority and member of the Duluth Trafficking Task Force, encourages to continue the dialogue.
“I know our task force has put an effort into January being Human Trafficking Awareness Month,” Yorde said. “It doesn’t have to stop here at the end of January.”
The conversation of sexual violence cannot be squeezed into one month. Sexual violence happens every day across the globe, and victims carry the trauma with them for the rest of their lives.
Rachel Goodsky, Membership Outreach Coordinator of the Sacred Hoop Tribal Coalition said Duluth residents believe the issue is not happening locally. However, two Duluth men were convicted for sex trafficking and sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl on Jan. 22.
Sex trafficking is a type of commercial sex exploitation. It involves victims, buyers, but most importantly the ones who profits from the exploitation. Sex trafficking is a hidden industry. Victims are often lured in through manipulation or exploited by people they know. According to the International Labour Organization, 99 percent of victims of sex trafficking are women and children.
Makoons (Mak) Miller-Tanner, the Liaison Advocate from Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault (PAVSA), said sex exploitation is sex as an exchange for favors without a third party. It happens often, yet it is much more obscure. People don’t realize it’s happening.
“I’ve had cases where I had a youth runaway from a treatment facility they were staying at,” Miller-Tanner said. “They ran into somebody on the street who was like ‘Hey, you need a place to stay? Well you can stay with me but you have [to do sexual favors] before you can sleep on my couch.’”
While sexual violence is a complex issue to fix, the panelists said awareness and prevention is key to making a difference in people’s lives and keeping our community safe. They suggest actively engaging in the dialogue, volunteer at various non-profits, get familiar with the warning signs, and calling the Duluth Police Department about suspicious activities.
The panelists also suggest that volunteering as a mentor can help the youth feel supported. Having a trusted and supportive adult outside of the family can help change a person’s life. Contact a non-profit to see how you can get involved. Megan Rabenberg, a senior in the UMD Early Childhood Studies Program and a coordinator of the screening believes that awareness can help future educators.
“In Early Childhood, we teach our youth,” Rabenberg said. “The program has the power to change a life. Sex trafficking is just one of the issues affecting the youth. Educators can be the voice to make a change. They have the power to help someone. It’s a duty of ours to know what’s going on.”
Sexual violence does not only affect victims, but it affects the entire community.
“When a community gets involved, a lot gets done,” Yorde said.
For more information and helpful resources, visit these websites:
National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1 (888) 373-7888