Originally published in the Pine County Courier January 25, 2018
Sex trafficking facts may be surprising
(Part two in the spotlight on sex trafficking)
According to “Mapping the Demand: Sex Buyers in the State of Minnesota,” Executive Summary August 2017, by the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, Robert J. Jones Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center, and the University of Minnesota, married, white, middle-aged males with children are purchasing the majority of sex in Minnesota. And where this is happening may surprise some. In Part 2 of our series on sex trafficking, we will dive into what sex trafficking is and how it is affecting our state.
What is Sex Trafficking?
According to Minnesota Law, Sex Trafficking is the “receiving, recruiting, enticing, harboring, providing, or obtaining by any means an individual to aid in the prostitution of the individual” or “ receiving profit or anything of value, knowing or having reason to know it is derived from [sex trafficking].” Minn. Stat. § 609.321, subd. 7a.
In order to begin to understand Trafficking, one must first understand the language used. Sex buyer, provider/victim, and trafficker are just a few of the words used. Depending on the area and year, many other slang words are used for trafficking. Here are the few general terms to help understand the language of trafficking.
Sex buyers are people who obtain sex or sexual activity with money or a trade for something of value (e.g. food, place to stay, goods, drugs).
A provider or victim are people who provide sex or sexual activity and include victims of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, as well as people who are not involved with a trafficker.
Traffickers are people who profit from connecting sex buyers to provider/victims (including pimps, and third-party facilitators).
Types of Sex Trafficking
While Sex trafficking can happen in a variety of ways, there are four main ways individuals are sex trafficked according to sex trafficking survivor Rebekah Charleston: gang, pimp, survival, and familial.
Gang trafficking is where victims are trafficked through gangs. Gang trafficking cases may be difficult to prove for a few reasons, but primarily because trafficked young people are not likely to snitch on the gang.
Pimp trafficking is one of the most common types of sex trafficking. Pimps are men or women who recruit victims into trafficking and manage commercial sex transactions to profit from them.
A “romeo” pimp will recruit their victims into trafficking by promising them gifts or a different life. Often times victims will fall in love with their “boyfriend” very quickly. The pimp will buy their victims items like purses or clothing that they wouldn’t already have. In certain situations, it wouldn’t be more than a meal from McDonalds, things that some wouldn’t have the money or access to. The pimp will paint a romantic future away from the victim’s home where they will have money and the victim will be away from whatever is troubling them. Once the pimp gets their victims away, often the gifts will slow down and stop and suddenly money will become an issue. Then the pimp will force victims into trafficking for money.
Survival trafficking is trading sexual favors for a place to stay, something to eat or both. It can start as one sexual assault and grow into the victim being trafficked out to others.
Familial trafficking is when a family member, i.e. parent, step parent, aunt, uncle, grandparent, sibling or cousin, put up another young family member for trafficking. This is a difficult type of abuse to identify. Abuse is common at a young age and can sometimes begin when a child is still an infant. The familial trafficker wants to normalize abuse as much as possible.
Why it Happens?
According to the Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force, the reason sex trafficking occurs is because of men’s role in it. The Task Force’s says; “Human sex trafficking is driven by the demand for commercial sex. The demand is comprised of both a) men who buy women and girls for sex, and b) a culture that tolerates or promotes sexual exploitation. The demand for commercial sex is strongly related to male privilege and sexual entitlement, and is part of a continuum of sexual exploitation and discrimination against women and girls. Strip clubs, violent pornography, exploitative massage parlors, and other venues and/or forms of sexual exploitation drive the demand for commercial sex and contribute to the normalization of the degradation and violence against women and girls.”
Who Purchases Sex in Minnesota?
According to the “Mapping the Demand” report, sex buyers are predominately middle-aged, white, married men from across the state of Minnesota. This information does not discredit the fact that there are other races and women also buying sex in Minnesota.
According to the report, a recent national study on men who purchase sex estimated that “about 14% of men in the United States report having ever paid for sex and only 1% report having done so in the previous year.” To provide a sense of scale, in Minnesota, that means that approximately 26,000 men may have purchased sex in the past year.
Where does trafficking Occur?
Sex trafficking can occur in cars, hotels, and homes or at parties, truck stops, and parks, among other places. Victims may be recruited at malls, schools, parks, on the streets, or online depending on the type of trafficking.
According to the “Mapping the Demand” report, most buyers will travel between 30-60 miles to purchase sex. Some buyers will travel further to purchase juveniles or individuals in specialty market segments. Travel can help protect buyers privacy and helps the buyer hide their behavior from their families.
Sex Trafficking Happens here?
While there are no specific numbers of victims trafficked in Pine County at this time, it is still thought that this could be a spot of trafficking. I-35 runs through the county and brings a large amount of travelers and tourists. In Hinckley we also have a casino which brings in big concerts and events which could provide more cover as more potential “consumers” for traffickers and buyers. With Casinos open 24 hours a day people leaving at odd times is normal. In order to have trafficking you must have individuals with money, usually men with a demand for sex. A casino brings men with money Pine County is also located near the halfway point between Duluth and the Twin Cities and is not far away from St. Cloud, three areas with greater populations of people. With statistics showing that buyers travel an average of 30-60 miles to purchase sex, it would not be a stretch to say some buyers could come to our county from the urban areas, or people from our county could travel to any of those cities fairly easily to be trafficked in those places.
One barrier to putting a statistic on victims whether in the county, or around the globe, is that victims do not typically identify as victims. Because of this, statistics surrounding trafficking tend to be highly under reported from victims and are significantly underreported by professionals as it is not always immediately recognized for what it is. Because of the nature of the crime, many individuals being trafficked do not reach out for help from fear of retaliation, getting in trouble themselves, or they do not think what is happening to them is trafficking.
Statistics on Sex Trafficking
It is difficult to find accurate statistics on sex trafficking as it is severely underreported and many of the main organizations dedicated to helping victims have different numbers. One national organization that has been helping victims Polaris has been tracking both state and national numbers since its beginning in 2007.
Since the Polaris Projects start in 2007 they have identified 38,304-40,466 total victims. In 2017 there were 13,897 calls reported with 4,460 cases of human trafficking reported to Polaris. Of those cases reported 3,186 cases were sex trafficking.
Since 2007, The Polaris National Human Trafficking Hotline line as identified between 377-401 victims in Minnesota. In 2017 they received 108 calls with 37 human trafficking cases reported. Of the 37 cases reported 31 cases were sex trafficking.
More alarming statistics have been reported from Schapiro group in a November 2010 study. They found that each month in Minnesota at least 213 girls are sold for sex an average of five times per day through the Internet and escort services.
Who are the victims of Sex Trafficking?
Victims of sex trafficking can be any age, sex, race, or other demographic. Some indicators of young people being trafficked include running away from home and issues with truancy. A majority of those trafficked are female, but male and other genders may also be trafficked. According to the “Mapping the Demand” report, the market is skewed toward seeking young adult providers/victims, with some buyers willing to obtain sexual experience from a minor. Some sex buyers specifically seek out juveniles. Most studies state a majority of the victims being trafficked are teenagers with some studies saying the average age of a victim entering trafficking is 12-14 years old.
Who is affected?
Sex Trafficking is not a victimless crime. It affects primarily the victims/survivors. According to Survivor Charleston there are many effects of trafficking on survivors. Some include anxiety, depression, PTSD, stigmatization, shame, embarrassment and guilt. Other challenges victims often face if they are lucky enough to get out of trafficking are lack of education and or job experience, bad credit, medical issues, and sometimes a criminal record. Families, friends, and communities are also affected by purchasing sex and sex trafficking.
In next weeks article Community United to Combat Sex Trafficking Part 3 will take a closer look at how our community is fighting trafficking and how individuals can do their part to stop trafficking, and local resources available for victims.