by Dennis Dalman
Minnesota is a state envied by many for its quality education, its topnotch health care, its thriving businesses and its dynamic culture, but there is one state statistic that is far from admirable – in fact, despicable.
Minnesota ranks among the top 13 states in the nation for the highest incidence of recruitment of minors for sexual exploitation. Specifically, in blunt terms, the selling of women and girls – and sometimes boys – for sexual purposes.
That grim subject will be discussed from 9-11 a.m. Saturday, April 18 at St. Francis Xavier Church in Sartell. The program is free for all. Light refreshments will be served.
Guest speaker will be Joy Friedman, a staff member of Breaking Free, a St. Paul program that helps victims of sexual exploitation. Another guest speaker will be Tim Broda, a Sartell Police Department investigator who will present a local take on the sexual-exploitation issue.
The April 18 program is sponsored by St. Monica’s Christian Women, the Social Justice Concerns Committee and the Knights of Columbus. Those sponsors are hoping many men attend the program because they have noted unless men understand the systemic nature of sex trafficking, it will more easily continue.
Friedman, the guest speaker, understands all too well that sexual exploitation is a more deep-seated problem than most people would imagine. She was sexually “trafficked,” first as a teenager, and she survived the violence and exploitation for 23 years. She was one of the first women to successfully complete the Breaking Free program. For the past 11 years, Friedman has worked for Breaking Free as a case manager, outreach specialist, program manager and a program for offender’s known as “John’s School.”
Friedman has provided many training sessions regarding the subject of exploitation and prostitution for police departments in the Twin Cities.
“Breaking Free,” she said, “took me in when no one else would help me. I don’t think I’d be alive today without their help. I was at a crossroads. Vednita (the program’s founder) held a spot for me when I had nowhere else to go. I was homeless and being pimped out on the streets. Coming to Breaking Free has changed my life, and now I advocate for other women. I’m a role model for them and proof there is a way out.”
At the April 18 meeting, blunt statistics will be presented as well as ways to prevent sexual exploitation and ways to reach and help its victims.
Among the statistics are these:
- An estimated 27 million people are enslaved worldwide, more than any time in the history of the world. A majority of them are exploited for sex.
- In the United States, sex slaves have been forced to perform as many as 10 acts of sex per day, and in some cases many more times.
- The average age of entry of females into sex trafficking is 12-14 years of age.
- It’s estimated sex-trafficking generates $32 billion worldwide every year.
- When asked, 89 percent of women and girls used in prostitution want to get out of the trap but don’t know where to turn for help.
- Almost 85 percent of victims of sexual assault and prostitution have been threatened or injured with the use of deadly weapons.
- Ninety-five percent of trafficking victims used drugs or alcohol to numb the pain of their dangerous, violent lives.
- Breaking Free notes 100 percent of all trafficking women and girls are someone’s daughter, sister and/or mother.