Just how much is a human life worth on the black market? The answer might astound you. January is Human Trafficking Awareness month and for the next two weeks, TruthToTell takes a long look into the many forms of exploitation and enslavement happening at the hands of trafficking lords in Minnesota. With these crimes often happening in plain sight right under our noses, we seek to find ways to be keen to these types of crimes as they are happening, and learn the best ways to offer help to victims. In this series, we’ll also speak to survivors of these heinous crimes about their experiences as a victim as well as their lives after breaking free.
Minnesota’s native women, particularly along the North Shore, are disproportionately affected by sex trafficking. Taken from their homes through coercion or desperation, they are often spread around the state and the country providing services to eager Johns (the majority of them are white males, according to research by PRE, Prostitution Research & Education). These practices affect an average of 100 girls under the age of 18 every month in Minnesota, according to FBI reports.
But Native women are not the only ones affected by these tragedies. Current victims are of all races and ages, as well as domestic and international origins. Sex trafficking is also not the only form; other trafficking victims are exploited for free labor, producing babies, supplying human organs, and more. The perpetrators can range from strangers dangling a carrot before desperate people, kidnappers, crooked doctors and lawyers, to one’s own family member.
New laws have been passed in recent years to protect victims who have the courage to try to break free from their servitude, so they are not punished for the crimes they were driven to commit against their will or deported for an illegal immigration status they have no control over. There have also been landmark decisions recently concerning the punishment of trafficking perpetrators. Just last week, Ramsey County issued an unprecedented 40 year prison sentence to Otis Washington, for his involvement in a family operated sex trafficking ring. And as you read this, more policies are being drafted.
TTT’s Andy Driscoll and Michelle Alimoradi will speak to this week’s guests about these points and more coming up this Monday at 9am on TruthToTell.
SUZANNE KOEPPLINGER: Executive Director, Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, Consultant, Office for Victims of Crime Training, recipient of the Minneapolis FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award and Hennepin County Attorney’s Community Leadership Award.
JEFF BAUER: Director of Public Policy and Civic Engagement, The Family Partnership, Master’s degree in Public Policy, Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, helped pass lead Safe Harbor law in Minnesota that protects children from trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.
Executive Director, Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, Consultant, Office for Victims of Crime Training, recipient of the Minneapolis FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award and Hennepin County Attorney’s Community Leaders
Director of Public Policy and Civic Engagement, The Family Partnership, Master’s degree in Public Policy, Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, helped pass lead Safe Harbor law in Minnesota that protects children from trafficking and commercial
Alumni Programs and Volunteer Manager and former Board Member, Breaking Free, Current Board Member, Aurora/St. Anthony Neighborhood Coalition , survivor of sexual, physical and emotional abuse.