Not every woman chooses her work as freely as others do. While we focus on a career and work theme in this issue of the Minnesota Women’s Press, we are confronted with the fact that many women do not choose their work at all. Every day, 8,000-12,000 women and girls are being sold commercially in Minnesota.
Many of these women and girls are prostituted. This is not their career choice.
• Prostitution is a multi-billion dollar business in the U.S.
• The average age for entry into prostitution in the U.S. is 12 years old.
• Approximately half of all human trafficking victims are children.
Statistics can be startling
The statistics above come from Breaking Free, a Minnesota organization providing services to victims of human trafficking and prostitution, and the Minnesota Human Trafficking Watch.
Behind the numbers are real people with real lives and real names: Katy, Shyla, Kaitlin and more.
Trafficking can be an invisible crime. It’s not talked about. It’s something “nice” families aren’t involved with, something that is not discussed in polite circles. When you see it you might look the other way. But we are learning as a society that when some people are degraded, we are all degraded.
Minnesota has become one of the 13 most heavily sex and slavery trafficked states in the nation. The sex trade is the most profitable sector of human trafficking, but trafficking victims may also be forced to work in roles behind the scenes, such as domestic work, sweatshops, farm work, construction, or the restaurant and hotel industry.
You can make a difference
Sometimes issues can seem way too big or too horrible for one person to make a difference. But that’s not true here. Several local organizations welcome participation with short- or long-term commitment. Here are a few that could use your help:
• Are you looking for a speaker for your faith community or parents’ group? Contact Linda Miller, executive director of Civil Society. She is an award-winning speaker on child victims of international human trafficking and refugee trafficking. Or have Bukola speak to your group. (She does not use last name for privacy and security reasons.) She will share her story of being a trafficking victim from Nigeria. You can get more information or schedule speakers by calling 651-291-0713 or email@example.com.
• Are you a trafficking victim? Or, do you see suspected trafficking? Call Minnesota’s Human Trafficking Hotline 1-888-7-SAFE-24 (1-888-772-3324) or 651-291-8810.
• Breaking Free can use your help with word processing, mailings, filing, driving to pick up donations, event planning, meal preparation for those in transitional housing, teaching cooking classes or car maintenance, co-facilitating a support group, English language tutoring, spiritual mentoring and public policy research. For more information contact 651-645-6557 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
• PRIDE (from Prostitution to Independence, Dignity, and Equality) is a nationally recognized program that helps women and teens get out, and stay out, of prostitution. This organization is looking for volunteers to help set up tables and chairs for events, provide child care for women taking classes or in counseling, or offer legal expertise for clients. Contact the volunteer coordinator at 612-341-1611.
There is a reason why Breaking Free’s tagline is “Sisters helping sisters break free.”
Where do you see women connecting and making change in your world? Send me your story, email@example.com.