Sex trafficking is a form of modern day slavery, in which person(s) engage in sexual exploitation through the use of force, fraud or coercion. It occurs in all communities throughout the United States, including Washington County.
The most vulnerable women, men, and children are targeted by exploiters to engage in sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. Sex traffickers target victims and then use violence, threats, lies, false promises, debt bondage, or other forms of control and manipulation to keep victims involved in the sex industry for their own profit. Sexual exploitation is the exchange of sexual activity for some form of consideration (for example, money, shelter, drugs). Sex trafficking is when a third party is involved in exploitation, which may be through recruiting, controlling or profiting. The Washington County Attorney's office is working with community and state partners to end the practice of sex trafficking.
Minnesota Sex Trafficking Law
MN. Stat. § 609.321 subd. 7a Sex Trafficking means (1) "receiving, recruiting, enticing, harboring, providing, or obtaining by any means an individual to aid in the prostitution of the individual," or, (2) "receiving profit or anything of value, knowing or having reason to know it is derived from [sex trafficking]."
By the Numbers in Washington County
In 2022, Washington County and the East Metro Sex Trafficking Task Force:
people for solicitation of a minor for sex
cases and tips
Sex trafficking is a problem hiding in plain sight.
During a underage sex sting in December 2022, 159 people answered an advertisement for sex with a person who was identified as a minor; seven people were arrested.
Students in Washington County
In 2019, the Minnesota Department of Education surveyed students in grades 9 and 11. Nearly 1 in 70 students responded that they had traded sex for something in exchange.
Force, fraud and coercion are the methods used by sex traffickers to press victims into lives of servitude and abuse. Examples are:
Physical abuse, sexual abuse, confinement, kidnapping
False offers of employment, marriage, or better life
Threats against the victim and/or their family, debt-bondage, psychological abuse, manipulation, isolation
Under MN law, force, fraud or coercion is not required.
How to Identify a Victim
Learn the red flags that may indicate human trafficking and ask follow up questions so that you can help identify a potential trafficking victim. These are some key red flags that could alert you to a potential trafficking situation:
- Low Self Esteem
- Experienced Past Physical and/or Sexual Abuse
- Drug Use
- Submissive, fearful or rehearsed
- Older Significant Other
- Sexual Photos Found on Computer or Phone
- Unexplained Gifts
- Noticeable difference in appearance (Hair, Nails, Clothing)
- Branding (tattoos depicting a name or initials)
- Language Barrier
Victims Will Often Not Ask for Help
Several factors may influence a victim's apprehensiveness to ask for help or identify as a victim. They often times lack trust, self-blame, and are manipulated and instructed by the trafficker. Often times, the victim may feel like they are in a relationship with their trafficker.
In 2011, Minnesota passed the Safe Harbors for Sexually Exploited Youth law.
Safe Harbors for Sexually Exploited Youth, went into full effect in August 2014. It increases the penalties for buyers and adds the term “sexual exploitation” to the state’s child protection code, recognizing sexually exploited youth as victims, rather than criminals.
Minnesota youth who engage in prostitution are viewed as victims and survivors, NOT criminals. They will be treated with dignity and respect, and directed to supportive services, and shelter and housing that meet their needs and recognize their right to make their own choices.
If you see something, say something. Often times victims of trafficking aren't able to speak up, but you can.